Not long ago I was discussing inspiration with a friend who suggested it is best to write when you are feeling really inspired. I got to thinking about that and decided that most of the time if I waited to be inspired, not much would ever get written. On the other hand, without inspiration, it’s hard to get started. But does one write to be inspired, or does one get inspired to write? It’s a perplexing question that applies to other things as well.
For instance, I’ve been waiting for about ten years now to be inspired to play the piano, but the instrument continues to sit in my living room collecting dust. Yet, I know from past experience (back when I did play the piano with regularity), that it was the playing itself that inspired me. When I was forced to play (i.e. by an impending piano lesson), I might approach the keys with absolutely no sense of inspiration at all, but after a few bars of say, Debussy or Ravel, I was smokin’!
Sometimes, external things do inspire us: Beautiful sunflowers, a walk in the woods, towering pine trees, mountains, a multi-colored evening sky, are all pathways to inspiration. But when there’s a job to be done, like writing a column or learning a piece of music, sometimes you just have to sit down and do it. And in the doing itself, comes the inspiration, comes the bliss, comes the satisfaction and connection. Believe it or not, some of my best writing comes when I have virtually nothing to say, as if the words rise out of ashes--an absolute miracle! It’s simply about sitting down, going within, opening the doors, and pounding out the sentences.
What about life itself? Do you get up in the morning because you feel inspired by the arrival of a new day? Or do you drag yourself out of bed and drive to work in a funk, only to be suddenly inspired by a butterfly that crosses your path, or an unexpected smile from a stranger? Is it the living itself that brings inspiration, or do you need some kind of inspiration to get out there and live? Hmmm.
It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Sometimes I think I am definitely of the inspired-by-doing camp, but at other times I’m of the get-inspired-and-then-do variety. Or maybe we’re all just a combination or mix.
In any case, I’m grateful for sunflowers, bagpipes, songbirds, cumulus clouds, and anything else that can get me to sit down and write. And I’m grateful, too, that sometimes I can just sit down and write and in the writing itself find the inspiration to put one word…one step… after another.