Motivation and Inspiration: How To Seriously Love Your Work
Is inspiration really for amateurs? What if you worked on your craft every day because you were too inspired not to?
Many people seem to think there are only two options for creatives: being the lazy dreamer who waits around for inspiration to magically appear, or being the serious professional who just gets to work every day no matter what.
Of course people should choose what works best for them and their preferred lifestyle, but I don’t particularly like either of those two options.
The obvious problem with waiting for inspiration is that it might come too late – or not at all. Some people are naturally inspired all the time, so this might be great for them, but not everyone is that lucky.
I grew up almost always feeling completely blocked. Throughout my career I still showed up, worked long hours every day, tired and scattered, and ran myself into the ground. I wasn’t happy or healthy, I usually wasn’t creating anything that great, and I wasn’t even well paid.
I didn’t know how to be inspired, and it didn’t come naturally to me. I just had the belief that I was supposed to hustle and push through. I’m still paying for it.
We don’t get blocked because inspiration just isn’t around, though. Inspiration is always available and there are easy ways to find it.
It’s not magic – though it does feel that way!
You can be inspired at any time – it just takes a choice to use your brain in a certain way that might not be your default mode. It even works for “left-brained” people like me!
The problem with just getting to work, even when you don’t want to, is that it’s too easy to slip into an exceptionally common pattern of self-destruction and neglect, where you ignore your true purpose and needs for the sake of productivity or money.
If you neglect your excitement and inspiration and force yourself to just produce, doesn’t this negate the whole purpose of doing what you love anyway? After awhile it can even lead to burnout or health problems that can take away your ability to work at all.
I’ve also seen people push through, only to realize they’d lost touch with their vision and have a pile of useless work that needs to be scrapped. This can go on for months, years, or even decades. You don’t need to let that happen to you.
Lack of motivation isn’t a defect – it’s a sign that you are off balance or off track. Ignoring this is not wise. Suffering for your work is not honorable or wise. That is backwards thinking, and hearing it your whole life doesn’t make it true.
But what if you keep trudging along, and one day you have a breakthrough! Maybe you will, but maybe not. Why leave it to chance?
Living in a society that has married productivity with self-worth, it can be hard to let go of the obsession to produce at all costs. But I believe we must. And we can. And it’s not that big of a deal.
Your productivity is not more important than your wellbeing, and should not come first. You may have deadlines and bills but you still deserve to be healthy and balanced. You still deserve a good quality of life. And you need these things to perform at an optimal level.
Your value is not determined by your output. When you value yourself properly you will stop abusing yourself for your work, and your work will get better.
Only producing when you’re clear-eyed and inspired doesn’t necessarily mean producing less, it just means learning how to be inspired more! And do you know what’s funny about that? Relaxing, taking care of yourself, and feeling good is a huge part of it.
The most natural way to be prolific is to be so inspired that you need to work every day. Finding motivation and discipline isn’t even relevant when you love your work obsessively.
And that requires paying attention to your wellbeing first.
Inspiration doesn’t come easily if you’re stressed out, tired, hungry, sick, or depressed – all things that often result from that “work now, sleep when you’re dead” mentality.
If you really want to practice more discipline, rather than just working yourself into the ground apply it to the root of the challenge: the building of a foundation for a healthy and inspired creative practice. This means taking care of yourself properly so you can think clearly and work well, then having fun daily creative sessions just for checking in on your practice and receiving inspiration. (If you don’t know how to do that, I strongly recommend reading my book, Create Now)
Once you start making space for inspiration, it will flow so hard that you won’t be able to keep up. Just make sure you have time scheduled for following through!
If you become stuck and start dreading your work again, just be honest with yourself. Are you really being lazy, or is your wellbeing or creative vision out of whack? These two things should be valued above all else. Make space and listen.
Inspiration is not for amateurs, it’s for visionaries.
For a step-by-step guide to being so inspired you can’t help but be prolific, check out Create Now!: A Systematic Guide To Artistic Audacity from Chronicle Books.