Today I’m going to talk about something that should hit close to home for us creative people: inspiration — and how we, as humans, relate and perceive it.
As musicians, we often wait for the golden gate to open, rays of inspiration to shine in and — presto — we bang out a great new song, lyric, etc. Those moments do happen, and they are awesome. How often they happen might depend on the state or clarity of your mind — or maybe even your luck.
When we don’t feel the inspiration to do something, we wonder when it will come back, or if there’s something we can do to get inspired.
Here’s where the breakthrough happens.
I realized inspiration is usually hiding around the corner, and when it doesn’t appear right in front of you, you must work a little. The work needed simply comes as action. In other words, you need to take action before the shy inspiration can start flowing.
For example, to write this particular column, I had a lose idea of what I wanted to talk about. It was just a skeleton. I took action to sit down, open the Word doc and start typing. As I start writing, a flow of excitement builds and the inspiration to write these words appears. It happens exactly as you are reading this, since I had no idea of the words, nevermind the sentences, I was going to use to complete this piece. I continue to write, trusting that the words will come to me as long as I keep taking action.
This happens everywhere and every time we wait for something to nudge us to do something.
Going to the gym is a perfect example. If we went to the gym only when we felt inspired to do so, trust me — no one would go. But we get into our cars and drive by simply taking action, and by the time we get through the first five minutes in the gym, we’re in. It’s easy to continue from that point on.
One thing that cripples us before taking action is that we often wait to have all the details figured out before we start doing something. When we do that, it is fear running our efforts. I know it’s difficult, but let’s start and figure things out as we go along. Let the world around you pull the pieces together as you work toward a goal. I recently read a great book by Arnold Schwarzenegger called Total Recall. It’s filled with lessons from his life. He talks about the fact that sometimes the more you know about something, the more confined and crippled your mind becomes. Wild, I know.
Now, think about that.
Wouldn’t that explain why someone who doesn’t know a ton about song writing writes a hit, a person who buys the winning lottery ticket because he doesn’t care about the odds and percentages that are stacked against him, or someone who becomes a successful touring musician while others spend their entire life getting the perfect studio to record a perfect demo.
The difference is taking action first. Learn on the job, or whatever you can you about a subject, but don’t wait to know it all before pressing the “Go” button. This is some incredible advice from someone who has been a bodybuilding champion, a Hollywood A-list movie star, a governor and a successful millionaire entrepreneur.
The last example comes from my own experience. A while back, when I was tracking guitars for my latest solo album, The Metalworker, I was waiting around for the inspiration so I could get started. I waited for inspiration, because I knew I had to make the album special. Unfortunately the longer I waited, the bigger the mountain grew and the less inspired I felt to record.
Due to deadlines, I had to take action.
So I just started the process one day. I got a tone, set up my guitar and in no time an incredible thing started to happen. I had a huge flow of inspiration. It’s almost as it had been sitting on my shoulder waiting for it to be unleashed. I then wanted to do nothing but play and record the guitars. It came to the point that I felt completely in love with playing the guitar, the instrument itself, changing strings (which is never my favorite thing to do) and do whatever it took to make the project special.
At that time, I started to put two and two together and realized that inspiration is usually around the corner for us. If it doesn’t show up on its own, it needs a little nudge, which always comes in the process of taking action first.