If you’ve been reading my blog at all, you may have gleaned that I see inspiration as a highly desirable tool of motivation. It shouldn’t be a crutch, as hard work is really the best way to hone your craft, but let’s face it, when you have inspiration it makes things much easier. So when you’re having one of those highly inspired days/weeks/months, how do you hold onto the magic? How can you keep it as long as possible, free-riding on the waves of momentum you’ve created?
I see several ways, the primary one of which is just to not stop working. It’s the snowball effect: scoop up a handful, push it down the hill and don’t give in to anything that might try to steal your momentum as your creation rolls down the snowy mountain, growing all the while. But another way to keep the ball rolling comes in at a close second: protecting what you already have.
Beware of the Abyss
At the end of November 2010, I was at a pretty amazing place, inspiration-wise. After National Novel Writing Month, I had a rush of momentum: fifty thousand words of a new novel—that’s one heck of a snowball. When December hit, I took a small break from writing, standing back to look at the creation I’d begun—and to jump into a whirlwind of last-minute Christmas knitting projects. I snuggled onto the couch with a cozy yarn from my stash, put on a show and started knitting like a crazy lady with a mean deadline.
I was really enjoying the change of pace. Switching creative gears from writing to knitting is refreshing and I’ve found from time to time it helps with writer’s block. Not having turned on the television in what felt like ages, I was excited to start a new series. Time in front of the tube felt like such a splurge after NaNoWriMo, but I could rationalize it since I had to get my knitting projects done.
But after watching an episode of the show (I won’t name the series), I felt like a little bit of the creative juice had been sucked from me. The premiere felt unresolved though, so I watched another episode…and another. After three, things were still unresolved (and not in a mysterious, good plot writing sort of way) and I wasn’t feeling any better. Actually, I was feeling quite a bit worse—unmotivated and on the verge of depression. Way past my bedtime, I decided to turn it off and accept the lack of closure, vowing I wouldn’t watch any more of that show.
With it still on my mind the next few days, I wondered how something so trivial could hold such a power over me. How could three hours of a silly television show leave me feeling like I was spiraling down into an abyss from which no creativity could ever escape?
I knew it wasn’t just watching television in general that had sucked the inspiration from me—I often find nuggets of creative ideas in great shows and movies. The culprit in this case was a show all about the meaninglessness of this life and the one beyond it. It was one of those stories where the whole concept made you believe there was no greater purpose in life—and if that’s true, then what’s the point of doing anything? Not that I believe that, of course, but watching the show was like trash for my brain. You know what they say: “Garbage in…Garbage out.”
After that experience I realized how dangerous it is to subject myself to things that might steal my inspiration. TV shows with humor so base and unintelligent that sometimes I think watching them has to be killing brain cells (again, I won’t name specifics). Video games that get you hooked for hours…or days…on end, but leaving you with absolutely nothing of value in return. (I won’t mention my guilty pleasure in college, playing the Sims for five hours straight some days… Whoops, I said I wouldn’t mention it.) I’ve read books that are inspiration suckers, too. I’ve also hung out with certain people who have the same effect, leaving you feeling dull and lifeless after they drain the motivation right out of you.
The bottom line is, we creative types need to be on guard against anything that could be an Inspiration Suck. We must hold closest that which is most precious, protecting it from any outside force that could crush it. When Droids from enemy armies try to bash your snowball, use the force and keep them at bay. I’m not saying it’s wrong to take a break and watch some meaningless TV from time to time or that you should cut off relationships with people who leave you feeling depressed. I’m just saying that it’s important to keep the radar active, watch for things that might suck inspiration and be ready to battle it out when necessary.
Maybe it’s just me. Do you find the same holds true for yourself? What things, people or activities are Inspiration Sucks for you?