Whether it’s setting up that blog or Youtube channel, or enrolling in that program you’ve dreamed of studying, or finally getting around to opening your own Etsy shop, it’s no surprise that for most people, mustering up the courage to actually start taking the steps towards their dream is the biggest, and most significant hurdle to overcome. And, we often use a lack of inspiration as our excuse as to why we’ve been dragging our feet and not putting ourselves or work out there. As it turns out, regardless of whether you feel inspired or not, the best thing you can do to garner inspiration for your project is to actually start your project.
Goal progression begets inspiration
We often make the mistake of thinking that inspiration must come to us before we actually start anything. But, as I’ve talked about in previous blog posts in this series, inspiration is first of all drawn out of us when we expose ourselves to new people, places, experiences, and things, and it’s transcendent of our own needs and wants. We have to play an active role in becoming inspired. Inspiration isn’t passive, it requires us to take steps, to do something.
When I sit down to write, I don’t necessarily always know what I’m going to write about. It’s usually in the act of sitting down in front of my computer, putting my hands on the keys, and starting to write whatever random thoughts come to my mind that I’m somehow able to find a logical flow, argument, or point amidst what I initially deem as nonsense. Although it’s ideal to have a plan (inspiration) before you start your work, don’t let that hold you back from even getting out the gate. Just start! Making any progress towards your goal, regardless of whether you think it’s fruitful or not, makes room for inspiration to come alive and flow. Simply sitting around and hoping inspiration will just land in your lap so you can start something is not a productive or smart use of your valuable time.
Don’t be distracted by lack of resources
You’re in the shower, mindlessly washing your hair, when suddenly you get this Earth-shattering idea! This immediate wave of excitement tingles down your spine, and as soon as you get the chance, you hit your laptop, sketchpad, or piano or, (insert tool of choice). However, suddenly, the tools you have at your disposable are no longer good enough. All of a sudden you become painfully aware of how ill-equipped you are to actually carry this thing out. So what happens? Unsurprisingly, your excitement, energy, and “inspiration” starts to wane, and you find yourself wishing you’d never started in the first place, or doubting whether you’re even capable of doing this, or anything. Sound familiar?
I cannot tell you the amount of times this has happened to me. I’ve started a non-profit organization, an online magazine, a blog, and other projects in much the same way. I start looking for exit strategies because of my lack of skills/equipment/knowledge, etc. But, in order to remain inspired and goal-oriented, we have to push past those sometimes very real, tangible, and often mental hurdles that try and thwart us from realizing our full potential. Try and find solutions that would fill the gaps you encounter as you start your project. For example, don’t let a lack of equipment hinder your project. Find people in your community that would be willing to either lend your what they have, or at least let you rent it. You don’t always have to go out and buy something to propel your project along. Reach out to people personally and ask for help in the areas where you aren’t as strong. Barter; offer to help others with something they might be working on as payment for them helping you. Also, ask people in your community that may have done something similar as you, and see if they have any recommendations of who they’ve worked with in the past (eg. sound engineers, graphic designers, musicians, artist, etc.). That way you can get an honest review of that person before hiring them, as well as saving yourself tonnes of time digging through the internet looking for people. There are alternative ways to find the resources you need. Don’t let yourself be derailed but what you don’t have, or can’t do. As cliche as it may be, where there’s a will, there really is a way.
Be driven to improving your work
Inspiration flows through us when we are driven to master our craft. Don’t let that intimidate you. Mastering your craft doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, or have “arrived”. We’ve all heard that “practice makes perfect”, but, I believe that aiming for ‘perfect’ ultimately sets us up for failure. We set these unrealistic expectations over ourselves, wanting our work to reach some crazy standard of success that doesn’t actually even exist, and then beat ourselves up, or quit when we feel we weren’t able to make our work perfect. In fact, the standard of ‘perfect’ is completely subjective and fickle – different from one person to the other, and constantly changing with the winds of popular culture.
I’ve started to live my life and conduct my work under the motto of “practice makes better”. Keep working hard at your dreams, giving them the dedicated time, effort, energy, thought, and money (within reason) they need, and you’re bound to see things improve and grow over time. The goal is never to arrive at perfect; the goal is to keep learning, improving, growing, serving, and making the world a better place. It’s in that consistent, slow, and progressive change that we see the greatest positive impact in the lives of those around us. And, isn’t that ultimately what inspired work, or inspiration, is all about?
Ultimately, whether you’ve been chasing inspiration for years, or find yourself suddenly struck with a brilliant idea through a vivid dream, just remember that YOU are the one that needs to bring that inspiration to life. Take those first, difficult steps towards starting, and then don’t look back.
Here’s to having my best ideas in the shower…