The Inspiration Lie

by Tobias van Schneider — First appeared in my personal email list.

Probably one of the most asked questions I get is “How do you get inspired?”.

We’re always waiting for inspiration to find us. We’re waiting to get inspired to paint this perfect piece of art, to build the next big thing or to come up with this great advertising idea. We’re just sitting there waiting.

I still do it sometimes, like an idiot as if I don’t know better after all these years of chasing inspiration.

The problem with finding the perfect inspiration is that it’s just a romantic dream. Waiting for inspiration to show up and solve my problems is really nothing more than an empty promise.

Inspiration is a little bit like love. Seeking for the perfect love is like seeking for perfect inspiration. The harder you try, the longer it will take. It’s like magic, maybe even luck.

Now you might think that luck is not fair and rather unpredictable because some have more and some have less. For me luck is more like an attitude.

You might not be able to control your own luck or inspiration, but you can definitely enhance it’s chances by putting yourself in positions where luck & inspiration is more likely to happen.

When talking about inspiration, we first need to stop seeking inspiration. This might sound counterproductive at first and appears to involve risk because we often work under pressure, and we don’t have the time to stop thinking about something we actually need to think about.

Inspiration usually strikes when you are not forcing it to strike.

Let’s just imagine inspiration exists as a random pattern in our life, as in the example I illustrated below. When forcing to find inspiration (see 1) my path is very linear/narrow and the chances are pretty low to get hit by inspiration — It will probably take forever.

If I don’t try to force inspiration to happen, my path appears to be more organic & random (see 2). I might go for a walk, I go to the movies, read a book or just start working. It doesn’t matter what I do, but what happens is that I put myself in situations where I’m more likely to get hit by those little spots of inspiration.

The key is to start doing something, RIGHT NOW! — It’s about to start working immediately even if you don’t feel inspired or know where you are going yet. Inspiration will only hit you once you are already in motion, not while standing still doing nothing.

And as Pablo Picasso already said:

“Inspiration exists,
but it has to find us working.”

This is an interesting concept because it completely goes against our logic that we first have to be inspired in order to work. But in reality that’s a lie — It’s exactly the other way around.

So the next time you say “I just don’t feel inspired right now” you know how to fix it. Start working right now and create your own inspiration.

Happy Sunday

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I’m Tobias, a Product Design Lead at Spotify NYC. Founder of Authentic Weather & Semplice, Advisor & UX at memomi —