Inspiration Every Day

Great artists, musicians, and writers are much the same as great athletes.  They understand the idea of constant work and preparation.  As a kid when you hear about artists you somehow get in your head this immature notion that art is created solely in the blinding spasms of creativity.  You somehow think that you can’t write, draw, sculpt, or whatever without feeling inspired.  That is coupled with the idea that when you do create something it will be brilliant because you spent the few moments of your life to create it.

That is utter crap and that is where athletes at the highest levels can teach people about how creativity actually works.  Don’t get me wrong, when you are first teaching a child how to draw, sculpt, act, etc. it is good to let them revel in the presence of the spontaneity of creation.  It’s just that at some point you need to teach them about the work necessary to become truly great, if that is what they want.

Many sports fans are like those young budding artists in that they see Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, or Cristiano Ronaldo on the field and don’t think about or understand that the finished product they see in games is the result of 100s of hours of hard work and preparation.  The fans don’t think of the thousands of games and practices that these athletes have participated in throughout their lives to get to this point with these skills.

That is just like how most people don’t think of all the hours sitting in front of blank piece of paper or canvas artists put in to produce something great.  How many rough drafts of Hamlet did Shakespeare start and abandon before finding the one we know today?  How many versions of the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper did Da Vinci start, finish, and destroy before he got to the ones we see today?

The thing I’ve learned about creativity over the last year is that it is like being an athlete.  You must get your reps in every day.  You want to be good at shooting free throws?  You have to practice shooting free throws.  You want to have a good golf swing?  You have to put in the time on the range and on the course swinging a golf club.  You want to hit a free kick like David Beckham?  You have to go to a soccer field and hit free kick after free kick after free kick.

If you want to become a good writer or a good painter you have to put the time in working on your craft every day.  You have to put words on paper and paint on canvas every day and take pride in what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Too often, talented people rely on inspiration.  They wait around to start projects because they want to be touched by some divine spark so they can be brilliant.  It doesn’t work like that.  The divine spark exists, but it only comes while you are working.  It only hits you as you are revising and changing and hammering away at your work on a consistent basis.  The divine spark doesn’t find you, you find it by chasing it through working every day.

By chasing it every day, it becomes easier to find it.  You see that inspiration all around you even in the moments you are not actively working.  Your unconscious mind keeps going and finds connections and stimulus in everyday things.  I have found the more that I write, the more I see things all around me that maybe don’t inspire a new short story, but they do give me a way to describe the color of a wall in a room that may be in a short story that makes the room more real and more vibrant for a reader.

That is the same as an athlete who puts in all the time and effort in practice getting his reps and building muscle memory so that when the time comes in a big game he acts with no hesitation and does something beautiful and amazing.

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