A Four-Step Formula for Inspiration

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There’s nothing like scrolling through your Twitter feed to see someone chatting about their phenomenal new story idea. It can be hopeful and energizing and exciting.

And, if we’re being honest, totally jealousy-inducing.

It’s easy to drift to “Why didn’t I think of that?” or “I guess I’m not creative enough.”

Wrong and wrong.

As creative people, we’ve done a serious injustice to ourselves when it comes to inspiration. We seem to think there’s a finite amount of the good stuff to go around, and that we aren’t capable of generating the same sort of originality as others. This belief is detrimental to our creative well-being.

We are all equally capable and deserving of receiving lightning bolt inspiration at anytime. We just have to listen.

And in order to listen, we need to set up the perfect, alchemical conditions to generate internal conversation with us and inspiration. Here’s how:

Inspiration Formula

  • Friction: The icky stuff. The stuff we want to ignore, push away, forget about. But if we want to write our story, we can’t. This is where originality breeds: within our own wonderings and heartbreak and dissatisfaction. Is there a memory that’s tough to look at? Is there a theme or thought in the world you wish you could change? Start here. Sit with it. Allow it to come up and tell it you’re listening now.
  • Oxygen: The fun stuff. The stuff that breathes life into us. Once we’ve allowed ourselves to listen to our deepest thoughts, we have to fan the flame. Add in relaxation + flow. Make a list of five things you do that are both relaxing and slightly challenging, just enough to put you into flow. For me that’s running, doodling, gardening, folding laundry, and sewing. Make time in your calendar for these activities, without fail. (If you need a calendar specifically for your creative output, I’ve got you covered. When you sign up for my newsletter, you get an immediate download of the current month’s creativity calendar. Whoop!)


  • Smoke: The confusing stuff. The stuff that looks like the opposite of inspiration. This is where most people tell me that this whole thing isn’t working for them. They’ve put in the time to figure out their friction and honor it, they’ve scheduled in oxygen time and are sewing/doodling/running their little hearts out, and all they’re receiving are thoughts like these: “I don’t want to think about my parents’ divorce. All this is doing is making me stew.” and “Who cares if I want to talk about how our identity isn’t tied into our looks? No one cares about that.” This is more resistance, and it’s coming up stickier than ever because you’re looking at it in the face. True inspiration is on the other side of fear, every time. Keep going. At this point, add an adventure session in on your calendar. You could go on an impromptu day trip, or pick up a book that is totally out of your comfort zone/genre preference. An adventure is small, but significant, act that shows your fear that you are dedicated to creating outside of your comfort zone and that nothing can stop you.
  • Spark: The lightning bolt stuff. The stuff you’ve put in the time for. You’ve thought about your friction, added in your oxygen, and shuffled through the smoke. At this point, you’ll probably be humming along in your garden when a lightning bolt idea strikes you. Voila! But if not, that’s okay, too. There’s either more fear to work out, or it’s not quite the right time to receive what you need to know. Here’s what you can do: Sit quietly. Close your ideas. Say these words to yourself, “I’m ready to receive the inspiration for my novel/short story/poem/painting.” Listen to what comes up for you. Write it down. Rinse and repeat until it happens.

AH

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