In this article I examine what is meant by “inspiration,” and how much more productive we can all be if we think about inspiration differently.
Inspiration is too often thought of as something that comes to find us.
In the past I’ve often said that I simply have days without inspiration, and others where I am inspired more richly. Today, though, I’ve been trying to think about it in a different way, and in doing this have had a more successful day of composition. In fact, no matter what task we are doing, in whatever field of work or hobby, I believe that thinking through the concept of inspiration as I have today can help enormously.
Firstly, and this is important, inspiration does not come to us. Thought through logically, this fact becomes obvious, but the number of times I’ve sat there, maybe at a piano, maybe at a desk, trying to glean some inspiration from thin air is embarrassingly high.
No, inspiration is something that comes from us. We should not seek it from somewhere else; it is already inside us, and as individuals everyone’s inspirations are different. So stop waiting for it to arrive, stop searching, it’s not going to come. What we have inside us are all our experiences and memories, along with personal likes and dislikes. The trick to being ‘inspired’ is turning those things inside our heads into material to be inspired by.
For example, I admire the orchestration of Shostakovich. This does not, however, mean that I will use his orchestration and transfer it to my own music. Instead, I will analyse it, find out what I like about it, and add this to my internal inventory of ideas. Another person could hear Shostakovich’s music and decide that it’s orchestrated terribly. In that case, they would then not go through the same process of using ideas from it as I have done. And the same would probably work the other way around focussing on something different from a different composer.
This is all a basic principle: that two people can look at precisely the same thing, and see it in a completely different way. One man looks at the sky, one sees a canvas of blue and white on which to paint a rainbow, the other sees rain coming. What I’m saying is that our inspiration has a direct link to the different experiences and approaches we have throughout life, and also I’m saying that it can be applied very easily.
Thinking about inspiration like this will instantly make you more productive. You suddenly have the full facility of everything you’ve learnt over your life at your disposal: techniques, ways of thinking, ideas. You’ll be unblocked, and we all know that a creative block is one of the very worst things that can happen, whatever we’re doing. Most of all, there will never come a time again when you feel that you’ve been unproductive, because inspiration will come naturally, and you’ll control it, rather than it controlling you.
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