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  • Writer's pictureHannah Marsh

Is Inspiration Necessary?

A writer I know begins her writing days with "warm-up" sentences. Sometimes, she has a direction in mind, and the words carry her there. Other times, she doesn't know what to write, but she writes anyway, one word after the other, until a mood or place or spark of an idea emerges, and she knows, at least briefly, where she wants to head next. She doesn't wait for inspiration to strike. She writes, and through the act of writing, she finds her inspiration.

Writing by the water

This is counter to the myth of creativity: the artist awaits his fickle muse, and, when the muse graces him with her presence, he's gripped by a creative passion. Maybe some artists work in this way, but in my experience, creativity is more like a meditation practice. To sustain a practice, you have to find a way to sit down and meditate not just when you feel like it, but also when you don't. Often, in my own practice, something shifts as soon as I start. When I sit on my cushion - or start reading what I wrote yesterday - roadblocks disappear, and, at least for awhile, I can see a way through.

But starting can still be a struggle. It doesn't always happen. So, I wonder, how do we get from a place of stuckness to a place of starting? How do we take the first, necessary step?

Some ideas:

In last month's class, someone reflected that the key factor in whether or not they created something wasn't inspiration. It was the intention and commitment to set aside the time.

The writer I know starts her warm-up sentences by telling herself they will be thrown away. In this way, she trains herself to write without expectation or judgement - the inner critic lets down its guard - creating space for the possibility of inspiration. (So often, it seems to me, what feels like a lack of inspiration can be that inner critic stopping us before we can even start.)

When I'm feeling discouraged, I try to remember beginner's mind. I can start anew each day, each sentence, each moment. This is a kindness to myself.

I wonder, when feeling stuck or uninspired, what happens for you - those times that you don't start and those times that you do? What do you bring to those moments?

In our February Mindfulness & Creativity drop-in, we'll consider these questions, exploring how we might support ourselves when feeling stuck and uninspired.

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