Motivation is a Task and Inspiration is an Activity
My favorite part of an idea is when it first strikes me.
It can happen anywhere and anytime, but when I’m awake enough to flesh it out, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. I get hopeful and ambitious and I start to dream up just how far I can take it.
I’ve finally started writing them all down so I don’t forget them. I’ve got post-it notes full of sentences and names. I’ve written whole paragraphs in the notes section on my iPhone. They’ve been piling up for ages now.
But they’re just ideas.
Honestly, it’s the easiest part. If I can just get the motivation, I’ll turn all my notes into something meaningful. That’s it. Once I have the motivation, I’ll have it all.
Isn’t that the famed process of creating something?
Inspiration happens, motivation shows up, and greatness ensues. The world wants you to believe this is is exactly how it happens. Ignore the voices rising up between the cracks to shout otherwise.
Am I the only one who finds the whole thing completely ridiculous?
When I was younger, I used to wait for someone to notice that I was talented. By the time I hit college, some of that started to go away, mostly because no one ever did notice. Not really. Eventually, I realized I’d wasted a lot of chances because I’d been too afraid. I’d allowed the passive process of becoming inspired and being motivated to run my dreams.
Opportunities for amazing things seem to be tossed about like fabled golden tickets. It’s true that some people get lucky. Heck, some people are lucky just being born into a certain family or country. There’s no controlling those things.
Still, the world seems to push the idea that brilliant people have wonderful things happen to them. They stumble upon opportunities and inspiration strikes. Maybe they work hard, but that part doesn’t get talked about. It’s not easy to convey.
But I don’t think inspiration is like lightning.
The idea that strikes you while you go about the day is only the first part of inspiration. There’s a part two that shows up after you’ve started to make your idea real. As a writer, I know that something has to come after those initial ideas. They can’t just sit around in a jumbled mess.
We forget that George Lucas had ideas, but the movies still had to be made. J.K. Rowling had an idea, but she still needed to connect the pieces and write 7 books. I’m sure they had long nights and lots of caffeine.
Even when we do know how hard it can be, the whole process can be romanticized into some artist stereotype. I haven’t even finished my first novel yet, but I can tell you that the shooting pain I started getting in my fingers and hands while typing was probably more a sign of stupidity than creative genius.
Most of the first ideas I came up with had to be scrapped or changed anyway. They didn’t fit together all nice and neat. My brain had to keep working while I was physically both restless and tired. That’s where part two of inspiration comes in and it’s the part that keeps people from doing anything else about it.
It’s a lot easier to believe that people can just be inspired and succeed. It makes us believe we can do it, too. There’s no possible way for us to fail if we only get lucky enough to be inspired and have motivation.
I wish we could put a hard stop on that narrative.
Motivation is not always intrinsic. There are days when you have to create it for yourself. When I wrote during Nanowrimo, I didn’t want to write every day. I was often advised to do it anyways. If I waited for it to happen, it probably wouldn’t get done.
People think inspiration is different. It’s the ‘Aha!’ moment that you don’t expect. It shows up out of nowhere and makes your life better.
Occasionally, it does. Other times, you have to inspire yourself. That’s why we share all those quotes on social media and read Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s why I sometimes stare out the window like I’m on drugs and search through pictures on Pinterest.
I have to keep the idea going, so I go looking for places to find more of it. I think that’s the hardest and the most worthwhile inspiration to find.
Maybe we need to stop waiting for the best things to happen and just make them happen. We definitely need to stop erasing the second part of the story.
Honestly, the easy parts are great, but my second favorite part of an idea is when I’ve completed it. I’m not sure how to show someone that feeling, but if anyone asks, it showed up because I did something, not because I got an idea.