As a kid, I watched this cartoon called Pokemon. In this show, there was a mystic bird called Ho-oh, who was very rare and the sight of whom, promised hope and greatness in life. Now, it is later revealed that she makes herself visible only to those who are truly capable and those with a true and pure heart. (Needless to say, the protagonist Ash and his Pikachu see this bird in the very first episode of the First Arc. Isn’t he lucky?). This bird seems like the best analogy for Inspiration now, to my adult mind. (The child in me still hopes that Pokemon are real and that I get a Charmander; but that’s secondary, I suppose).
These days, inspiration is this mystic Pokemon who everyone wants to catch. The problem is, we want the bird to fly down to us, and trap itself in the cage we hold in our hand. Inspiration, we all believe, is something we ‘ought’ to get, as if it is something that belongs to us and we have a right over. The other school of thought that is a continuation of this belief is that it is a matter of luck and comes to people, just randomly.
But didn’t Elizebeth Gilbert, in her famous TED talk, talk about how some of the greatest people in history describe Inspiration as something they caught out of thin air? Didn’t she recommend that all people should believe that too? Yes, yes, dear sir, I concede to your idyllic memory. But the truth is, she meant it as a way to beat the stress of expectation and fame, rather than as a justification for throwing in the towel.
I do admit that inspiration seems to come out of nowhere. But really, it’s a culmination of everything we have done and everywhere we have been. Even when we are not consciously thinking of something, our mind keeps making connections in the background. A Coursera Course of ‘Learning How to Learn’ gives us a little more insight into it. According to them, when we are stressed, our brains and systems do not work as efficiently. But after a stressful period, when we take a break and calm down, then our brain starts making connections and intrinsically understanding the problems and analyzing it on the unconscious level, that is, in the background.
At this functioning level, it understands the concept in its unique way, based on all your experiences and knowledge. It is when this process goes on, that often, uncanny connections are made and the mind comes up with gems.
So, is the solution to just wait till this ‘inspiration’ comes in? Well, that’s often what most of us seem to do. This specifically plagues the writers between us. I can talk from personal experience though, that this approach is not the best approach as it often leads to missing deadlines and delays in submissions (ask those who have had to deal with my delays). The better approach seems to be to create a ‘bad’ first draft on the basis of what you understand and can think at that moment. After that, you can work on improving and revising it. Putting things down in a more concrete way, after all often helps us process in a more positive way.
‘Inspiration’ thus, is a slow process that requires deliberate and consistent hard work, not for days, but years, for it comes from everything you put into your mind through the years. So, as you go ahead to ‘catch em all’, do remember that the mystical bird only comes to those who have earned their place there, and even then, puts up a great fight before being captured.
Some additional resources on inspiration:
Read: Awaken the giant within by Anthony Rob
Watch: Ted- How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek