Without inspiration

For the creative person, inspiration is everything. Any activity where you aren’t primarily just following instructions, depends on inspiration, and if that’s where you live, the flows and currents of ideas and creative energy become critically important. Like all flows and tides, creativity tends not to be a constant stream, because nothing natural is without degrees of fluctuation or change.

What happens when there is no inspiration? For an author, this is a place of fear. Writer’s block, is crippling. Not just in terms of not being able to produce in the moment, but also the fear of having lost it. There are no guarantees that your vision will ever return. On top of this, many creative people carry anxiety about being frauds. If you fear that you aren’t really a proper (insert appropriate title here) then the loss of inspiration can seem like proof that you can’t really cut it as a professional creative person. There’s nothing like fear, self doubt and despair to further shut down your creativity and reduce your scope to trust whatever does turn up.

I know a lot of professionally creative folk working across many different disciplines. What I see reliably, is people working long hours for not much money, and needing very high output to be able to make ends meet. The romantic view of the creative life, with the long literary lunches, the glamorous parties, and some occasional, pleasant, effort free not-proper-work is miles from the truth. I don’t know anyone living that way. I know a lot of people who work ten hour days and more, seven day weeks, producing gorgeous, inspired things and just about getting by. They create because they have to, because it is not possible to exist without doing it.

It would be nice to feel relaxed and at ease with the process, not worrying about deadlines, or where the money for next month will be coming from. It is easier to court the muse if you’re not conscious of needing money for shoes, or a thwacking great electric bill you can’t afford. When you need the flow of inspiration on full blast all day every day to have any hope of not sinking, block is terrifying and a disaster, and it tears people apart. We are not machines, and to need to run your inspiration as a commercial product can be to put your creativity in jeopardy. Burn-out can destroy you.

I think the last time I had a whole day off was in October 2013, and before that, there were a couple days in July. I’ve got a day in about ten days time, and I’ve been holding that thought for weeks now. The last few days I’ve been so tired, that the ideas are barely flowing at all. Yesterday, everything was making me cry, and that’s not a good sign. I gave up this morning and had a couple of extra hours in the duvet, just sitting there, not really thinking or doing anything because I was too shattered for even that.

Professional creativity means study and practice. It means polishing your craft, learning about it, developing it. It is a whole other thing from having a hobby, where you do only what is pleasurable and comfortable. These are the things people do not have in their minds when they say that we creative people should give our work away for free, for love. You only get creative excellence by working at it. Be that hours training your body for dance and gymnastics, hours developing your vocal stamina so that you can sing two 45 minute sets in an evening, or honing your skills so that you can capture a face in a few lines, be those of words or paint… If you don’t do these things professionally, you don’t tend to know what it takes. A good performer, a good artist will make it look breathlessly easy, but if you see that and assume there was no effort involved in getting to that place of simple brilliance, you might want to give it a try some time. It is so demoralising having all that dedicated work rubbished by people who want to justify getting a freebie.

In the meantime, I may not be doing much today.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Without inspiration

  • Raven Seven

    I really agree with you, Nimue. You sort of have to feel it flowing up from within and then try to get some sort of rein on it before it flies away into the ether.

  • locksley2010

    So say we all!

  • flameinthesnow

    As a tentative writer–a newbie in so many ways–a useful post.

  • lornasmithers

    Thanks for sharing this. I think practice includes not only the writing / reciting etc. I have less struggles on this account, but finding means to get my work recognised… as producing work has little value without an audience. I’m not very inspired at this. Any advice on this account?

    • Nimue Brown

      folk clubs can be very welcoming of poets, and your fey and landscape elements would make you a good fit there. it can be easier being in spaces where you are the only poet… But yes, very much agree on the need for sharing. You might try recording youtube videos or audio content, see how that works?

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Working on my e-zine ACTION is not a steady thing, though I wish it was. I have days that I get nothing done, sometimes a week to two weeks right after finishing an issue.

    Remember that she I start I have no idea even whom I will be interviewing. It n get some time to find that first person and in turn get permission to interview. Then it sometimes takes a few days before I an get them to understand that I need some background information, and much of that online, so that I an do some research and figure out logical questions on subjects that I personally may know knowing about.

    There is another reason for that research to see what they are interested in talking about and the things that they are passionate about. If I an find that out I can write the type of questions that help them talk about what they are about and I am more likely to get a better interview.

    Then I have t wait for them to answer the questions and get bak to me. In the mean time my interview may get lost or even forgotten in the sudden busyness of life. So I may have to remind them and not upset them so much that they bak out. One I do my editing I send the corrected copy back so they can check for any errors and to make last minute changes. Sometimes it is not until he day before I have to post a copy to my web guy that I find out what the final issue will look like.

    This is just the way it goes and no matter how upset I might get over it there is usually nothing that ca be done to speed it up. The hard part is one accepting it, and relying on the fact that have only had two issues in ten years that were not on time, and only a couple of days late. It can be hard to remind the worrier in side about that. Every good issue scares me about whether I can do as good on the next issue as well. Nevertheless this goes on eight times a year every year, even through computer breakdowns, car crashes, and even one thirteen month period that I had to have 5 eye operations on my right eye. Whew!

    I have told my goddess and my god to either give me inspiration, or a kick in the butt, whichever proves to be the most effective. So far they have not failed me.

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