As is usually the case, the idea came to me as I was casually minding my own business.
No warning. Not even a light knock. It burst through whatever barrier separates the subconscious state of not-fully-formed or dormant thoughts from the conscious realm of giddy, sparkling ideas.
And it consumed me.
So much so that I had to put off what I’d been planning to do next (read a book, as tends to be my evening pastime lately), sit still, and let it all rush in.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the familiar sensation of inspiration overwhelm me so intensely. The past few months, I’ve just felt too closed off to welcome in too many creative possibilities. Which really isn’t a good thing, since whether or not I succeed in my day job literally depends on my ability to think and work creatively.
I can’t say exactly what happened. Perhaps I let my guard down a little too long. On a Friday night, after a long, yet productive and relatively successful week of creating content within a very specific set of parameters (ah, media), I suppose I just finally let my mind wander to that place we let minds go when we’re tired of focusing.
Oh, it went. It went far. And that’s when the idea appeared.
It’s too big, and too new (relatively speaking) for me to tell you about what it entails. I know I’ve been tossing out hints, and I promise, I’m trying not to do that too much (yet).
But I’m not here to weave false promises about a project I can’t reveal in detail (in case it never happens). I’m here because of inspiration.
I want to be reading my book right now. Except I knew I couldn’t read another word until I let some words of my own spill out of my brain for awhile first.
What’s weird about inspiration is that we have to go through periods without it in order to fully appreciate it when it does decide to come around.
That’s why you can’t force inspiration. You can force yourself to be creative or consume content, which increases your likelihood of becoming inspired to generate ideas.
But if you’re sitting there reading inspirational quotes or flipping through a self-help book, and you’re just not feeling inspired, that’s it. Close the browser, close the book. Because this isn’t something we can just summon on command. If it were, what would it really mean to us? If I felt as inspired to create as I do right now every single night, well, for one thing, I’d never sleep, or read, or do anything besides create (which might sound like the dream, but trust me, breaks are a thing for a reason).
But also, if we spent all our time inspired, we’d never be able to focus on or finish anything. Intense moments of inspiration (I call them “brain rush,” which is also the name of my podcast that I stopped making because I’m BUSY) bring with them a sense of instability. It’s wild. I’ve gotten five ideas for new blog post in the last 20 minutes. And those are completely unrelated to the idea that started this whole mess in the first place.
This actually does not happen to me very often. Which is why I tend to dive headfirst into these states of mind whenever they appear. I have ideas, and even if I don’t start any of these projects or posts right away, I put them in a place and I acknowledge that I care about them, and whether I wake up tomorrow and return to them or leave them there for awhile, I know where they are. When inspiration strikes again, they’ll be there waiting.
During inspiration dry spells (“brain drought,” obviously), that’s actually when I do most of my deep work. When you’re excited about an idea, there’s a lot of surface planning, and maybe some deeper thinking. But it’s very rare I get too deep into a project I’m inspired to work on while I’m still fully immersed in inspiration mode. This is when I’m very sensitive to new ideas, and if I focus too much mental energy working on one thing, there’s a chance I’ll miss another idea that comes along — or I’ll just ignore it.
It’s a great place to be. But there also comes a moment when it goes away.
And then you forget what it feels like, to feel inspired. For awhile.
That’s how it should be. Every strike of inspiration should feel like a pleasant surprise. That’s what makes this whole creation thing so exciting. There’s a time to generate ideas and dream and set goals. And then there’s a time to pick a project, sit down, and work on it until it’s finished.
Feel inspired to create.
But don’t forget to set aside that feeling soon, and actually get to writing something.
Inspiration will come around again. It always does. Always when you least expect it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.