Inspiration has this almost mystical, magical status, as if it’s something that’s beyond our control, that we are at the mercy of the muses, or some higher entity that bestows upon us this gift of inspiration. Regardless of whether you believe inspiration to be a product of divine intervention, it’s a state we can reach more often and easily by using certain techniques. I don’t believe you have to be at the mercy of these seemingly random bursts of creativity.
Much of the issue is in the way we think about it and define it. We think it’s something that comes to us, something that is out of our control, and when you think and speak like that, thoughts become words and words become deeds, you start behaving based on that pretence and build a mindset that dictates your behaviour. So if you believe it’s out of your control, you won’t be able to allow yourself to enter a mindset that allows yielding to happen, letting go, entering a state of creativity or perhaps even flow.
Being open, receptive, and connected to inspiration is a skill. And that means you can practice it and becomes better at it.
And after you’ve spent a great deal of time defying the muses, you’ll find that you’re always open to inspiration around you. You notice people who are open to being inspired. They’re the people who smile when they hear something interesting, they’re constantly stimulated by life, seeing it from various different angles, not confining themselves to a specific perspective or mental state.
The definition of the word ‘inspiration’ is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”. Now of course there are many ways of defining it, some are more spiritual in nature, and some are more scientific, but regardless of where you believe that stimulus comes from, it doesn’t need to be completely random, you can create your own inspiration.
The word stimulus, or stimulation is the key to solving this challenge. In order to be stimulated, one needs to position themselves in such a way that allows stimulation to take place. Lack of inspiration is a lack of stimuli reaching you from the right angle. Just like it’s difficult to see something if something blocks your view, the stimulus can’t reach you if you’re unable to receive it. Inspiration is all about positioning yourself in such a way that creates openings, where you can receive stimuli. That’s why you have to move. You cannot connect with something you can’t perceive.
Often we make the mistake of trying to force it. We look for it. But in truth we should just be moving around, creating openings we can connect with. Finding inspiration is a lot like going out on a day when you feel a bit antisocial. You’re not that enthusiastic about meeting people, but then suddenly something exciting happens, you meet some random people, the situation throws you off a bit in such a way that now your mindset is completely different compared to a moment ago. The situation and the people in it stimulate you in a certain way, and now you suddenly feel all social and bubbly. You’re inspired to communicate and socialise.
Inspiration is a reaction, a connection to something, that is all. And in order to produce a reaction, you need to relentlessly reposition yourself until you get one. Then you just follow it. It’s a matter of perspective, and the lack of perspective leaves us disconnected to the things around us.
We all feel different on different days. And the way we feel is a combination of many things; Our physical condition, stuff that’s happening in your life, brain chemistry, the weather, our social life, and the list goes on.. So life throws you around. But like with anything else in life, it helps to gain control over those variables and become someone who can execute to a certain standard no matter what is happening around you. If you’re always dependent and affected by your surroundings to a high degree, it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate through life towards the direction you want to go. So it is with music. Taking control of your inspiration is a skill like any other, you just need the tools that allow you to practice it.
Whether you’re a hobbyist, a professional, or a semi-professional, it helps to gain control over when you write your music. You might not want to be at the mercy of ‘those days’ when you happen to feel like doing it. That leaves you with more time do to other things in your life and plan better.
I offer you two solutions, two techniques you can use to get past writer’s block:
1) Consume art
It can be anything: music, movies, games, series, go for a walk in the forest.. any form of art you can connect with will do; something you can lose yourself in, something that speaks to you. Again, this is all about repositioning yourself, switching to a completely different mindset. Let the art consume you, take you to a different place; There something will hit you from the right perspective and off you go.
This will work very differently for different people. For me to be musically inspired, it’s other music I need to listen to, and that’s probably true for many of you musicians out there. To give an example; Often when I listen to music, somewhere in there there’s usually a point where I almost hear something, something I thought should’ve happened in the song but didn’t and then I start to chase that. It’s like a ghostly image of what should have been there, and now I just follow that trail, and it always leads me to something completely new and different.
2) Sit your ass down, and just start working, and more specifically, start playing around.
We musicians and artists have the advantage of using toys. That’s what our instruments and tools are. Just like we played with toys when we were young, we play our instruments. It’s no chance that the word is the same. What we do with instruments might serve a more specific purpose, a function, the refined process of creating music, but essentially we are exploring and channelling our creativity and individuality through a medium, an instrument. That’s what kids do when they play.
The more toys you have the more tools you have for repositioning yourself. That’s why I always encourage people to have at least a couple of instruments even if they don’t play all of them properly. It instantly puts you in a different position, it gives you a new perspective, one that is unfamiliar, and forces you to play differently.
If you have an audio interface or digital audio workstation, you are in a great position to be in control of your inspiration. Just start recording, pull up a few plugins, play with all the toys you have, just start playing like a child would. They don’t care what things look like, or what they’re supposed to be; their imagination can take over and turn something that’s ‘supposed’ to be something into something completely else. Thats’ where you want to go too. Be relentless in your pursuit of forgetting the rules.
Many lack the discipline and calmness for this method, but an easy way to think about is; just sit down in from of your workstation, your instrument, and start playing. Don’t think about it, don’t judge it, don’t have any expectations of yourself or your music, and just let go. This is just another way of saying; constantly reposition yourself without any hesitation or any reservations until something clicks. Surrender yourself to that process.
This will only work if you are willing, if you yield, into the process of playing like a child and let go. If you do this, not only can you find inspiration, but you can even enter a state of what we call flow. But that’s a topic for another time.