Socktober Week 4: The Inspiration Myth

Socktober Week 4
October 1-31, I am making a Sock Puppet A Day. UPDATE: For each puppet MADE, I am donating a pair of socks to a local shelter. AND! For each SOLD, another pair. See them arrive via Instagram, see them for sale (and all in one place) at my store.

The Inspiration Myth

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” -Pearl S. Buck

I make a lot of stuff. One of the most common questions I am asked is, "Where do you find ideas and inspiration?"

To which I say, "Behind the house, in a magical cave filled with glitter and coffee and an ornery eagle who speaks in riddles." 

Here's the scenario: you're all fired up to create your next opus, your breakthrough novella, your multimedia masterpiece. You've carved out the perfect nook for yourself to fill that blank page or screen and it's time to dig in and get that painting or pop song done and into the eyes and ears of the hungry millions. Now to just kick back and let the inspiration flow like so much glitter and rainbows from the unicorn horn that is your mind and soul!

Um… about that… There’s some bad news. Maybe it's not bad, maybe it's neutral. There's some neutral news! Here’s the thing: when you are actually making stuff, much and more of your time will not be spent in the grips of inspiration. It will be spent working. But! The good news is that this less inspired time does not have to be spent staring at the aforementioned blank page or glowing screen while banging your fist into your head and muttering, "Why do you do this? What is wrong with you?" 


Inspiration is really just having an idea, right? The germ of an idea for a story about space travel, the perfect perspective to paint that pear from, just the right dance move for the crescendo of your robot opera. These moments can and will happen, and they will find you. On rare occasions, they will come to you fully formed with all of their fineries and details in vivid technicolor. But more often than not, they arrive as germs and seeds.

So where to find your seeds?

Now that we've destroyed your dreams and can safely and collectively acknowledge that inspiration will not pour from your eyes, ears, and mouth like a faucet of still-more-rainbow-unicorn-glitter, it's safe to also acknowledge that yes, inspiration does in fact occur. And it comes from everywhere. In particular, inspiration comes from observation. 

If you want to cultivate the initial inspiration that functions as the fuel for all of that hard work, I do have recommendations. Two of them.

Watch and listen.

Listen to people, how they speak and what they think about what they are saying. Stop and look. Think about why someone placed a vase a certain way, and a font another. Take off your headphones and take it in. Stand at the other end of the train platform and watch one train go by. Walk into a store you’ve never gone in. Watch and listen.

Watch and listen to what you already know and love, as the creativity of others is its own inspiration. Go to plays and movies and museums. Watch tv shows and listen to awesome records. Sometimes sit with the things you love the most and think a bit about why they touch your soul. Other times make yourself see something completely new, or sit with something you don't like at all and ask yourself why.

And then get into the habit of watching and listening to yourself.

Write it all down.

You’ll know inspiration when you have it. When you don’t have it, you use that initial spark as the ignition, and then you work hard. You push through.

You get it done.

But don't wait for inspiration, just get to work. It'll come.

Marty Allen