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On Inspiration

Write, they say. Just do it. No matter what else may be happening, no matter where your head, heart, gut is at, punch the clock and get to the grind. This is how you make it. This is how you beat the boundaries, tip the scales, make the future work in your favour — just forcing yourself through the motions, dry-cranking all of it out onto paper, saying what you’ve got to say.

Only, what have you got to say? Nothing, most likely — if that’s how you’re going about it. Writing isn’t a day-job. It isn’t something that can be achieved just by showing up. You don’t put on a uniform and spend half your day wishing you were somewhere else, only to collect a pay check at the end of the week anyway. It is the total antithesis of that.

Most people can’t do it. Most writers can’t do it. We’ve all been trained out of it. We think, ‘ok, here’s a topic, I’ll write about that’ and then proceed with the hunt, one key at a time. And the work that’s turned out may be decent, but it still remains something that was picked. That’s the thing — in the true order of life, you don’t pick anything. It shows up on its own. And it’s instantly recognizable.

Kids know this. Remember how no one could fool you as a kid? You knew what was good, you knew what wasn’t. All kids do. Only adults are deluded enough to convince themselves there’s quality where there really isn’t. Kids haven’t talked themselves out of it yet. And in just the same way, you can’t talk yourself back into it. You can’t re-write something that wasn’t there in the first place.

When was the last time you read something that grabbed you in the first few words and made you forget you were reading until it spit you out at the end? That’s what I’m talking about. That’s inspiration. And it goes well beyond the confines of the written word. It’s a feeling. One that is stronger than us, one that transcends labels and criticisms. It arrives before all those, and cannot be truly touched by any of them in the aftermath. Forget ‘quality’. Quality is a subjective phenomenon. Critics will laud you, they will hate you — it makes no difference. The moment has passed. What matters is what moves you, and what you allow to move through you.

Ultimately, that’s what inspiration is: a moment of allowance. Of trust. Of letting go — whether we consciously realize it or not. It is a slight glimmer of the place we were meant to be all along, the simple surrendering — without effort — of all of our inherent faculties to the the flow state itself. It is realizing that we, each of us, have natural abilities that can be properly put to use if only we get out of the way. That’s how you do it. You take control by relinquishing the need for control.

And there’s only one thing that can stop it.

Fear.

Give the thinking mind a chance to get too involved and it will muddy the whole thing up — it’ll walk over it again and again until the original is unrecognizable. It will question your abilities until they disappear, or it will have you living in such a way that the inspiration is aborted before it’s even had a chance to spark.

There is no greater death than this, no greater separation from the natural state we’re meant to live in. We are creatures with infinite potential. We could re-make the face of the planet in a decade if we so decided. But we are afraid — of ourselves, of each other, of life, of death, all of it.

So whenever that inspiration hits — if you count yourself among those lucky enough to still feel it — give yourself over to it. Let it come, let it dictate, take notes along the way. Do everything you can to nurse the original feeling into as strong a state as possible — something that will re-infect you with its essence whenever you return to it, whether it’s to work with it some more or just to re-visit the feeling — and maybe, just maybe, you will drop a dab of the eternal into this temporal life, providing it with the most invaluable of gifts: something we can all gather around, feel the glow of, and in its warmth, know that glow as our own.