If the opposite of life is death, then the opposite of inspiration must be expiration.
Which is terrible.
Wouldn’t you rather inspire than expire? I know I would.
But sometimes… out of the blue, when you’re not paying attention, when you’re not even looking for inspiration, it happens. Like a bolt of lightning from the midnight sky, something connects. Something glows unexpectedly, as if the great and powerful Oz has just flipped a switch and turned on every single light in Times Square.
Your heart beats. Your mind races. Something within you is aroused. Stirred. Awakened. Ignited. Triggered. Motivated. Stimulated.
That, my fellow creative, is the buzz we call inspiration.
The word ‘inspire’ literally means ‘to breathe into‘. And inspiration happens without warning…unexpectedly, something breathes into you and refreshes you. Changes you. Motivates you. Opens your eyes and ears and heart. It tunes the frequency of your soul to receive something right and true and resonant.
Like you, I’ve had experiences like that more than once. A song lyric. A movie quote. The rugged beauty of Big Bend or the serenity of a lonely beach in January. The painting of a local artist that made me weep. The starry night sky in central Texas. The wide-eyed smile of my children. The strange heartbreak of losing my mom to cancer.
Sometimes we can only get inspired after we’ve expired and perspired. After we’ve given up, given in and given out. And once we’re out of gas, out of words, and out of breath, inspiration blows in like a refreshing summer breeze.
Sometimes, when you’re worn out and frustrated like I was, it shows up as a strange angel with jangly bracelets and yoga pants.
One spring night I was at an open house for Six String Ranch, an amazing recording studio tucked down in the heart of Austin,Texas. I’d done some recording projects there before, but tonight it was an open house, packed with crazy-talented people I’d begun to cross paths with. Artists. Producers. Musicians. Writers. Guitarists. Singers. Pianists. Drummers. Designers.
Tonight it was like a clubhouse for creativity and talent.
I was nervously making the rounds trying to meet as many people as I could, trying to figure out how in the heck I’d gotten an invite to this ‘exclusive’ hideout, when a woman stopped me at the coffee bar.
“Hey there, my friend!”, she stuck out her hand. “How are you?!?”
She was dressed in Yoga Pants and a long, multicolored paisley blouse that flowed to her knees. She must’ve wore a hundred randomly-selected bangle bracelets that jingled with every gesture. Her large hoop earrings were gold and hung down all the way to her collar. Her lips were blindingly pink. She was shorter average, but BIG on personality. Her enthusiasm caught me off guard. Like…WAY off guard.
“Um… hey. I’m good. How are you?”
“Outstanding!” She gleamed. “Isn’t this great?!?”
Sheepishly I replied,”Oh. Yeah. Yeah. It’s really great. Tons of great people… really nice. And [the owners] are wonderful….”
“I’m sorry… have we met??”
“Oh, I don’t think so…. I haven’t really gotten to know everyone yet, so I just started calling everybody ‘friend’. I figure it saves time trying to guess if we’re going to end up friends or not. I’m gonna just assume you and I are gonna end up as pals, and I might as well just start from there.”
Her enthusiasm was a little overwhelming.. but her proposition to this whole thing was genius. I decided I’d just go with it as well.
“Well, friend… what brings you here?” I asked. “Are you a musician?”
“Oh, no.” She replied. “I can’t play a lick. Can’t sing either. I’m more of a muse…”. She leaned in towards me, grinning mysteriously.
Ding! Ding! Ding! The crazy train had officially arrived. I wasn’t sure if she was crazy, or high, or just plain eccentric, but I got busy looking for an exit strategy. Surely there’s someone else around here I should be talking to. I’ve got too much crazy in my life as it is. I didn’t need to add one more burned out hippie to my bag of nuts.
“What I mean is I teach creativity…”, she continued. “Especially to people who are blocked. You know…frustrated. But they don’t know why they’re blocked. Sometimes they’re blocked business executives who are having trouble in their company. Sometimes they’re blocked housewives who feel they’re in a rut and what they do doesn’t really matter. Sometimes it’s musicians and writers and artists and such….so I figured I’d just show up and see if I could find a lonely songwriter to help out …”
“Are you friggin’ kidding me?”, I thought to myself.
“…So what are you doing here?” she asked.
I. Was. Speechless. Here I was, struggling and frustrated, and the Universe had opened up and sent me a paisley, jangly, bedazzled angel. Why am I not surprised?
“You’re gonna laugh.” I answered. “I have no idea why I’m here. Not really. I’m a frustrated songwriter…looking for inspiration.”
Not just an ordinary smile either. You know that ginormous Christmas tree in New York each year? You know, the one at Rockefeller Plaza that’s about a thousand feet tall and lit up every year with about a gazillion twinkly lights? She smiled a smile like that. Literally, all I could see was her teeth and her eyes, bright as Christmas morning.
I began to spill my guts. Everything. All of it. Some of which are in the pages that follow. At the time of this writing, I still don’t know her name. I don’t know where she lives or what she drives. Maybe she was a literal angel. I believe it’s possible, you know. Or maybe not the literal, metaphysical kind, but at the least the metaphorical kind. The kind of angel that listened and questioned and prodded…and confirmed what was already in me. (Here’s a hint: its the same thing that’s already in YOU, too.)
Her best advice? “Keep going. That’s what you do when you’re going through the desert. You don’t stop in the middle of it. You keep on going.” So whether you’re frustrated and burned out, or you just want to infuse your creative juices with something new, you’re in the right place! In the pages that follow, I’ll spill my guts about my creative journey. I’ll share what’s worked and what’s helped me build my creative muscle, as well as how to unleash the creativity inside you.
It’s in there. Are you ready? Let’s get started!
excerpt from ‘Unleashing Your Creativity: Lessons From A Reluctant Creative’, available on Amazon.