Did you know that couches exert a gravitational pull that is roughly ten times greater than that of other objects? This is true according to a scientific study I have conducted daily for pretty much ever. Once the couch has you in its Death Star tractor beam, resistance is futile, especially if you have a task to complete. In fact, the more important, necessary, and/or difficult the task, the more likely you are to find your rump plastered to the cushions, TV remote, phone, or other shiny distraction in hand.
I’ve decided that the problem with me is that I always want to feel inspired. Which is complete and utter horse poop, especially when it comes to creative endeavors. This also applies to the work of every day living like cooking dinner, cleaning out that horrifyingly cluttered closet that probably now harbors some form of intelligent life, or calling that person you said you’d call about that thing.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of inspiration as this glorious, spontaneous surge of energy and ambition, often accompanied by beautiful visions and/or theme music. All you have to do is stay open to it, like a SETI satellite array, scouring the Universe for signs of life. Sure, no signal may come for years and years and years, but when it does, it will be fucking amazing. LIFE-CHANGING.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines inspiration as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” It goes on to include definitions such as “a person or thing that inspires” (Thanks a lot, Captain Obvious), “a sudden brilliant, creative or timely idea” (Jackpot!), “divine influence believed to have led to the writing of the Bible” (Have you read the book of Revelations? Drugs were almost certainly involved.), and finally, my favorite – “an act of breathing; an inhalation.” This last one is the closest to the root word, the Latin inspirare, which means to inhale or breathe in.
Um. How did we get from “breathing” to “magical energizing force?”
Some misconceptions about inspiration, gathered from a clinical test group consisting basically of me:
1) Inspiration comes to you instead of from you
2) Inspiration is necessary in order for me to start
3) I have no control over if, when, or how inspiration strikes
The truth, I have discovered, is that I am full of shit. (Ok, this is not so much a discovery as it is a reluctant but necessary acknowledgment.) 1) I am never going to see a vision in the clouds. Which is actually a good thing, because then people might start making pilgrimages to my backyard and I’d have to wear pants all the time. 2) If I wait for brilliant ideas to spontaneously pop into my head, I’ll never have any. And if I make that a condition of getting started, I may as well start having my meals and correspondence delivered directly to the couch. 3) I can, in fact, trigger inspiration through action. Like Fat Joe, I can make it rain. Only without the objectification and misogyny.
I’ve talked about how you can create neural pathways in your brain through positive self-talk and action and how it really makes no sense at all to rely on external sources for fulfillment. It makes even less sense to wait for inspiration to fall like manna from heaven. Here’s the trick I stumbled onto after endless couch-sitting and rationalization that I would “do it when I felt up to it” (a time in which, surprisingly, NOTHING at all happened): I just get up and start doing the thing. Even if I don’t feel like it. Even if I have the most terrible attitude ever and I am thinking thoughts I can’t say out loud because my family would flee. I just shuffle on in my very best Walking Dead zombie impersonation, and guess what? When I show up, with my messy hair and my crappy attitude, eventually so does inspiration. The feeling, I have found, does not have to precede the action. In fact, most times, the action triggers the feeling.
I am trying now to remember that if I am breathing, I am experiencing the truest form of inspiration. If I just don’t succumb to inertia every single day (there are some days when it is inevitable, I get it), if I agree to let myself be imperfect and unpresentable so long as I am moving, and if I remember that couch gravity is not actually a thing, at some point I will experience fulfillment. I don’t know if it will ever appear with perfect show biz sound and lighting or if one day the idea that will lead to fame, glory, and Oprah-like deification will burst, fully-formed, from my forehead like Athena from the head of Zeus. Who knows? But in the meantime, I’ll keep moseying along and trust that inspiration will catch up to me.