Why Inspiration Is So Fickle
Inspiration is a shifty little bugger. We spend a bunch of effort looking for it, not sure when we actually have it, or wondering what to do when we get it.
When we do feel like we might’ve trapped lightning in a bottle, on closer review it often turns out to be just a lightning bug. A sky laser reduced to an intermittent twinkle that won’t illuminate a thing.
What the heck is going on?
Inspiration is like “Schrödinger’s Oomph.” Once you look in the box (or bottle), you realize that feeling inspired is not a magical catalyst for action. It’s 50/50.
When we dig deeper into ourselves we find that we don’t actually want inspiration to bring on action, we want inspiration to be a forcefield against doubt. We want a guarantee; surety that what we are going to embark on will work. No take backs, world! I’m a delicate flower and I can’t emotionally afford this not working.
And so we treat the idea of inspiration as an explosion in waiting. We look for it in the hopes that once we find it, a fuse will be lit, launching a new version of us, and blowing our old life into kingdom come.
It’s like we are all secretly John Mclaines in waiting. Yipee Kaiyay, mf’er! (This link is NSFW b/c of language. Have your headphones on.)
Yes, a flame needs fuel. Unfortunately, there aren’t trenches of gasoline at our feet ready to cause absolute havoc on whatever was holding us back before this moment.
No, in our lives, while you certainly can’t start a fire without a spark, a spark does not always beget a fire. The more apt statement would be, “You might start a fire with a spark.”
So instead of imagining that enough inspiration can light powder kegs of action in our minds, the better analogy for it would be us lost in the woods having to build a fire on the damp earth in a stiff breeze. Here, the spark is not the Big Bang of what’s next; it’s merely a glimmer, a chance to showcase that we’re willing to put in the work, to earn the right to place a bigger log on our fire.
We all want that flicker to turn into a log-eating bonfire where you can bask in the light, and do the standing rotisserie spin to warm your back and your ass, but it only turns into a log eater if it’s tended to, coaxed, nurtured; if it can sustain fire. That’s on you. That’s on each of us. Sustained action.
And it’s the early effort that’s key to progress because it’s there you’re dealing with the most unknowns, with the least feedback, and no proof that it will work yet.
You have to be your own inspiration.
With a little bit of luck, the result of your commitment will not only be some flames, but the glowing coals at the bottom of your blaze. In fact, it’s the heat of the coals and all that sustained work that allows the fire to stretch higher.
I know, everyone will come for your flames because that’s what’s sexy, but my wife will be quick to tell you that the key to a good campfire s’more is the embers. Because to melt the ‘mallow evenly, you want heat not fire.
And how do you get smoldering coals? With patience.
But patience is rarely the virtue expressed by us in the beginning of anything — or by the eager, encircling the campfire as they dip their marshmallows into the flames.
But you’ll know that the magic of your fire is what you did on your hands and knees, how you brought it to life when no one was looking; that you turned inspiration into the engine of repeated input that now keeps the furnace glowing, so that everyone can be hypnotized by your flames and what you’re putting out in the world.
Enjoy that perfectly melted s’mores, and then throw another log on that fire. Throw it anywhere. You’ve earned it.