One of the persistent misunderstandings about creative inspiration is that it is a passive experience. We wait for inspiration to strike, so goes the myth, and when it does we go about furiously documenting it in our novel, painting or whatever it is we’re hoping to create.
The fact of the matter is that creative inspiration occurs only as a result of action. As I never tire of saying in my seminars on creative problem solving, “The Thinking Is In the Doing.”
It is in the act of making something, of being engaged with the problem at hand, that those ephemeral “a-ha” moments occur. Sure, we never know when they will occur, of if they will occur at all. But by diving in to the problem in front of us, by getting our hands dirty so to speak, we are at least increasing our odds that our ability to link disparate ideas will happen.
Creative Inspiration Is About Frequency
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin expresses this idea of continuous engagement as “frequency.” It is this constant application of our minds and emotions to our creative task which enables us to make the fresh connections that define creative thinking.
You’re much more likely to spot surprising relationships and to see fresh connections among ideas, if your mind is constantly humming with issues related to your work. When I’m deep in a project, everything I experience seems to relate to it in a way that’s absolutely exhilarating. The entire world becomes more interesting. That’s critical, because I have a voracious need for material, and as I become hyperaware of potential fodder, ideas pour in. By contrast, working sporadically makes it hard to keep your focus. It’s easy to become blocked, confused, or distracted, or to forget what you were aiming to accomplish.
Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly.
So Don’t Just Sit There, Start Doing Something
You can call it 99% perspiration, or frequency, or whatever you like. The point is that you need to keep moving, and keep engaged with the problem you’re trying to solve.
Creative inspiration is not something that happens to us; it itself is something we create.
This, of course, is easier said than done since creative engagement requires a certain amount of energy, especially at the beginning. But what I’ve found is that once you get going, it’s a wonderful adventure as your mind circles around, going back and forth, stalling at times, but ultimately providing the fertile ground needed for big ideas to strike.