Be Your Own Inspiration

As seasonal depression has slowly but surely sucked all of the life and motivation out of me in the last few months, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to write. An overwhelming sense of shame and mediocrity grip me as I attempt to do my daily poetry. I’m so distracted by the idea that I am not good enough, that my words are ignorant and hollow, that I can’t concentrate for long enough to create anything. Then this only reaffirms my crippling self-doubt, making it harder to come back to my laptop the next day.

Yesterday after finishing a poem that I wasn’t particularly proud of, I decided to read some of the older ones I had compiled for publishing this coming year. Even though I’ve done this in the past, I was still surprised at just how wonderful I felt these older poems were. I know I was partly moved because they reminded me of the times when I had written them, but I can’t deny that they are also excellent poems in their own right. I think anyone could enjoy them just as much as I have. The more I read, the more thick the wall of tears became against my eyelids, inevitably overflowing into hot streams down my cheeks. I wrote these. I had to keep reminding myself.

Today despite still not feeling particularly creative or inspired, the sense that I’m a failure and I’ve never written anything good nor will I ever write anything good is absent. I know that inspiration will find me again. I believe in and am proud of the things I have already created. I feel at peace inside this artistic dry spell.

Looking back at my old work was exactly what I needed. I’ve done this in the past not only with my poetry, but with my art as well. One day I was nearly in tears, wondering how I had ever believed I could draw or use my drawing tablet at all. Then I decided to pull up some of my old drawings. I was so happy looking at them. These are really good! I was delighted and surprised that I was so easily able to forget my own talent.

Sometimes the combination of mental illness, writer’s block, and exposure to so many other people’s amazing work online can leave us feeling inadequate. In these moments I try to remind myself of Lizzo’s wise words: “I am my inspiration.” We don’t need to be at the same level or have the same style of writing or drawing as other people. It can be hard to be an impartial judge of our own talent. That’s why it’s important to go back over our older work. So many times I’ve found that something I once hated or didn’t think much of has turned out to be one of my best creations when I look back. The poems I wrote as a teenager that I was embarrassed by seem simply beautiful to me now. I’ve even decided to publish them, and they’re available on Amazon if you’re interested.

I guess my point is, don’t trust your opinion of yourself or your ability when you are feeling low. The mind has a way of convincing us of things that aren’t true, especially when it comes to our perceptions of ourself. Just be patient and remind yourself through hard evidence. If your brain is telling you that you can’t write, go back and read what you’ve already written to prove it wrong. If it says you can’t draw, take the time to enjoy a personal art show of past works to silence that critical voice. Hell, sometimes this even works if I’m having a particularly bad body image day. I’ll look at somewhat recent photos I’ve taken of myself to remember that I can feel beautiful.

The only person you need to compare yourself to is your past self. Be your own inspiration. And most importantly, I want you to remember that every single thing you have created or will create is incredible and worthwhile, because it is a piece of your mind made manifest. When I look at something someone I love has drawn or written however silly it may seem to them, I love it. I love it because it came from them, and that’s all that matters. That’s what makes everything any one of us creates special and perfect. And lastly, let yourself rest sometimes. I promise your inspiration will come back soon enough.

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Bored Without Work

I don’t know what to say to people that proclaim they would be “bored” if they didn’t have to work every day. I have to believe that I am just misunderstanding them somehow. They couldn’t possibly genuinely be saying that they are that empty, boring, and directionless as human beings. What do you MEAN you would be bored? I don’t think they grasp what that statement insinuates.

To me, when someone says they’d be bored if they never had to work again, it breaks my heart. Do they realize that means they have no personal motivation or interests to pursue? They really believe their heads are so empty that without someone else beating their back with a whip, they wouldn’t know how to move forward? They have no goals other than the ones set for them? I can’t imagine a sadder existence than that.

Also, have these people never been bored at work? I’m bored at work nearly 90% of the time anyway. Our system is set up illogically. We are forced to sit in offices for a certain amount of time regardless of how long it actually takes to complete the tasks we have for the day, leading us to actually be less productive as other (better) countries have demonstrated through shortened work days/weeks for their employees.

Maybe it’s more about the social stigma attached to not working. Perhaps these people have an image in their head that it’s either work 40+ hours a week, or literally sit on your couch 24/7 and watch TV. Capitalism has seeped so deeply into their psyches that they cannot fathom what it would mean to live for themselves. Maybe saying you’d be bored without work is a strange form of virtue signaling. I could never stop working. I have too much self-respect and am a motivated, productive person. I enjoy contributing to society. There is always the subtle insinuation that those who don’t work a 9-5 job do not contribute, which is obviously not true.

I personally think many peoples’ talents are wasted by the way our society is set up. I think I would be able to offer society much more value if I were able to spend my time as I pleased, working towards my own interests instead of struggling and exhausting myself in a structure set up by other people in which I simply do not fit. If everyone wasn’t constantly expending all of their energy stressing about money and working for other people, who knows what amazing contributions individuals would be able to make? Even if you already work in a creative field or are self-employed, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to take into consideration what other people want or what would make the most money? You’d be able to be more true to your own interests and creative ideas. You’d have so much more freedom.

It also saddens me to imagine most people seem to be unable to even conceive of activities other than work that would be fulfilling. Even if you enjoy the work you’re doing, like I do, I would still prefer to not have to do it. That’s not to say you’d have to stop either. It would just mean you weren’t dependent on it in order to feed yourself. Just that small change would inherently make the work itself more enjoyable. There have been studies that show even when you like an activity, if you’re paid for it, it becomes less pleasurable. Your mind begins to rationalize that you are doing it, not for the enjoyment, but for the money, which is less fun.

If you are someone who believes you’d be bored without the need to toil for our capitalist overlords, here are just a few of the myriad of options you could devote your time and energy to:

  1. Volunteer work
  2. Activism
  3. Learn a new skill/hobby
  4. Learn an instrument
  5. Study a different language
  6. Go back to school to learn about a subject you enjoy
  7. Make art
  8. Spend more time in nature
  9. Travel
  10. Spend more time with family and loved ones
  11. Workout
  12. Practice yoga/meditation
  13. Invent something
  14. Clean
  15. Home improvement projects
  16. Write
  17. Read
  18. Draw

I could go on, but you get the point. There are a limitless amount of things that you could do besides work! You really wouldn’t find any of these alternative activities adequate to keep you from boredom? Or are you just considering some of these things as work? If you don’t have to do it for a paycheck, it’s not work. I don’t mean literally any amount of physical or mental exertion when I say work. I mean traditional employment. There is a big difference between doing something because you want to and doing something because you have to, even when it’s something you love.

Amateur

I am an artist afraid to practice
because each effort must be a masterpiece
inspiration extinguished under the weight
of violent, consistent self-criticism

Repulsed by the bitter taste of trail and error
searching for a sure formula for success
unable to reconcile the necessity of
an amateur's imperfect products

I marvel at the innocence
the way a child creates with an open heart
with no concern for mastery or exceptionalism
content with whatever comes

Surprising their own curiosity
the natural progression of true talent
disguised in the simple joy of creation itself
satisfied to make anything at all

Character 3

Artifacts of bright laughter
fingers tracing patterns
in thick layers of dust
Joy shackled to a clock
love and freedom rations
doled out in small doses
light dancing unwitnessed
in the sharp art of crystal shards
hidden behind thick walls
the hard geode of conscience
endless eclipse, sun over moon
arresting the rhythm of the tide
absence of sound that suffocates
sinking below the weight of still water
last sparking static of stagnant energy
the sweet perfume of slow death
sickening spirals of fragrant fog
escape open pores in the earth
unsustainable pressure
crushes my pearl into powder

The Artist

I'd love to know how others write
do they have a plan before
they put pen to paper or
place their fingers on the keys
do they know where they're going
as they embark upon this daily journey

For me writing is a chance encounter
with my secretive inner self
I never know what she has to say
until I sit down to listen
the conversation begins in silence
shyly unraveling in slow motion

Revelations of private wisdom
glimmering behind the veil
of the person I pretend to be
that funny feeling of never knowing
what's inside my own mind until
I give it space to surface

The stifling self-criticism that bars the door
to my still, secluded, subconscious sanctuary
tells me a masterpiece must have a plan
fills me with fear of wasting time translating
an underwhelming message
that doesn't matter

But conversations do not have blueprints
you can't predict which will change you
or save you suddenly from yourself
it's always worth it to take the risk
even if it's just for the pleasure
of having someone to talk to

So I faithfully open the door each morning
hoping that the artist within arrives
to tell me something beautiful 
even though some days she stands me up
she is a busy woman after all
with lots of better things to do

Alternate Ambitions

The internet is great at giving us a false perception of the way other people live and conduct themselves from day to day. Despite this flawless image YouTubers and other influencers give off, one thing still seems real to me: their ability to focus their talents and efforts and present them in a consistent format to their followers. They find their content niche and stick to it diligently until they manage to build up a following.

This is an impressive feat in my opinion. My creative interests are so scattered and fluctuating. It’s pretty apparent if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. I can never seem to pick a theme or pursuit and stick to it. I have far too many things I’d like to work on. I realize that I can’t do them all. If I want to monetize these creative outlets for myself or create cohesive finished products for a personal brand, I have to focus my energy on one thing at a time. Focusing on one thing, feels like abandoning all of my other interests though. I tend to lose momentum and start feeling stuffy and stagnant when I work in one arena for any amount of time.

I should consider myself lucky. Maybe these influencers really only have a small set of interests or talents, and that’s what makes it easy for them to narrow down their creative range to catch a consistent audience. I’m truly blessed to have so many passions and creative gifts that I could turn into a personal or career path. My biggest obstacle is wrangling my attention and fixing it on a single endeavor to complete a bigger, well thought-out project. Maybe on some level I’m just afraid that if I devote too much time and energy to one creative medium and don’t receive a return on that investment, I’ll feel like a fool or a failure.

Just for context, here is a list of all of the things I’ve been swirling around in my head that I’d like to work on:

  • Podcasting (no idea what of the thousand topics I’d be able to settle on)
  • YouTube (same issue)
  • Online/Livestream Yoga
  • Private Yoga lessons
  • Vegan mentorship
  • Art (selling prints, commissions)
  • Writing (Poetry, short-stories, fiction, non-fiction)
  • Positive Affirmation Coloring Book (publishing and marketing it)

Obviously I can’t expect myself to actualize all of these possibilities. The vague idea of each and every one of them fills me with excitement, inspiration, and motivation. When I get down to the details and the physical steps I’d need to take to turn these ideas into something concrete, I become paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. I may have a lot of creative energy and valuable talents, but I have no idea how to market them or myself in any meaningful way. The idea of creating a mediocre finished product leaves me feeling awful. There is also a fear that by turning any one of these ideas into a business would rob me of the joy I have just doing them for fun.

If I had any money at all, I would likely go out and find myself a manager or someone to help me stay on track and advertise one of these skills. However, anxiety over money is the only reason I’ve been so eager to find a way to profit off of these ideas in the first place. For now, I’m planning on finishing the steps of publishing my positive affirmation coloring book. I’ve already got 30 drawings to compile for it and a good idea of who I would be able to market it to in my community as well as online. I’m just stuck in the limbo of trying to navigate self publishing and perfecting the tiny details about compiling them into a presentable book.

When I find myself struggling with these practical steps, I can’t help but feel pulled to abandon the idea all together and chase a different goal. Logically, I know I’ll eventually face the same problems with anything I try to produce. At the end of the day, I think lacking self-confidence is what’s holding me back. As I continue to try to move forward towards securing a self-determined future for myself, I’m going to try to imagine what I would do if I were confident. A confident person doesn’t get bogged down with the little details and agonize over making everything utterly perfect. I have great ideas. I’m extremely intelligent and talented. And I am going to make something incredible to contribute to the world. That’s the kind of energy that’s going to carry me forward into the next phase of my life.

Something Worth Giving

Every being on this earth is truly unique. No two people think, feel, or experience the world the same. Therefore it stands to reason that each person in the world also has something unique to offer, whether that be in the smaller scale of people in their lives, or society at large. Each form of giving is equally valuable and fulfilling. I think it comes naturally for us to want to give back to our family, friends, and community. There is an inherent satisfaction in being helpful to other beings. Giving of ourselves is not the hard part. The hard part is knowing what our own special offering is.

Creativity and inspiration come from the deeply held belief that we have something worthwhile to offer to the universe. Artists can often feel compelled beyond all reason to express this powerful urge from within. Even in my darkest hours, a part of my intensified creative energy in this state is a deep longing to reach out and share my personal suffering with others. The idea that my suffering could be a comfort to someone else or an acknowledgment that they are not alone, that someone else understands, is a beautiful driving force.

I think one of the many reasons I’ve been feeling so stuck and unmotivated is that deep down, I really don’t believe that I have anything worthwhile to give. This feeling hanging in the background of all I do makes me want to be as small as possible. I shrink away from the world, trying to get out of everyone’s way. The bitter taste of conceit turns my stomach when I contemplate creative efforts. Who am I to create? Who am I to take up space? Lately everything I do, everything I am, feels like an affront to the world rather than a gift. I am filled with shame by the perceived presumption that what I say, do, feel, or create should or even could matter to anyone else.

Somehow I’ve always been able to hold two contradictory believes in my heart simultaneously: Everyone matters. I do not matter. Everyone has a unique and valuable gift to offer. I have nothing to offer. Everyone deserves to be loved. I do not deserve love. Even though logically I realize both of these statements cannot be true, that doesn’t seem to affect my conviction toward either one.

Perhaps I still just haven’t determined what my unique gift is. Despite all of my varied talents and skills, there are always a lot of people that out perform me in any arena. Once again, I would never proclaim that you have to be “the best” at something in order for your work to be worthwhile, somehow I hold myself to a very different and unrealistic standard. Maybe it would behoove me to get some outside perspectives on this matter. I wonder what those closest to me would say is my special gift. What is my unique value in this world? What I am able to offer in a way that no one else can?

Then again, despite the value you perceive personally, there is beauty in the idea of giving regardless of the “worth” of whatever that may be. Sometimes it is even more moving when someone with little or nothing of value shares the small amount they do have. Part of me believes that it is only our role to give, not to determine the value of that gift. After all we can never truly tell how something may affect or benefit another person. It’s the thought that counts, right?

I may never be able to determine for what reason I matter in this world. But I have faith that there is a reason for all of this despite my limited ability to understand. Maybe it’s not my place to know but to learn how to continue being without that knowing. Maybe it’s my place to give what I have and not worry about whether or not anyone else “wants” it. It’s the intention that matters. It’s the energy behind our actions that determine their worth, not the physical manifestation of those actions. No matter what I have, I can choose to give it with love, and that’s more than enough. And if others happen to think it’s not enough, that is their obstacle to overcome, not mine.

Writer’s Block

For months now every time I sit down to write, I am overcome with a deep piercing pang of unworthiness. I heard someone say the other day that creating starts with believing that you have something worth sharing. This struck a chord within me. Maybe once I felt I had valuable input, interesting concepts to put forth into the world, but now? Now I feel empty. The longer I spend trying to come up with an idea, the worse I feel about myself as a writer, as a person.

Again and again this idea has been reinforced. I have nothing worth sharing. I’m embarrassed by the assumption that I might. I feel ashamed of the blank page in front of me, reminding me that I’m not enough. That blinking black line on an ocean of white is agonizing. What could be more painful than plumbing the depths of your soul and finding nothing?

This intense internal pressure never reaches a breaking point. There is no release from this ever tightening grip of anguish. Why does this vague desire to pour out my soul in colorful, living form not subside? When I try to pin down the essence of that longed for expression, there is nothing but smoke and shadow. There is nothing but a looming sense of emptiness, dusty bare walls of an empty room.

Talent & Creativity

The older I get the more saddened I am by how few people seem to have their own artistic or creative hobbies. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard people admitting with downcast eyes that they “can’t sing.” Even I struggle with the idea of dancing in front of anyone else, and until recently even when I’m alone. I don’t remember where I heard this, but I’ll never forget it because it made such an impression on me. A reporter went to a tribal community for a documentary. The tribe was having a festival of sorts and wanted the reporter to join them as they sang. When he told the leader that he couldn’t sing, they stared at him perplexed. This was such a strange concept to them that at first they assumed me meant he was physically incapable of singing. It hadn’t occurred to them that what he really meant was, I’m not a good enough singer.

As children we didn’t stop ourselves from doing things because we weren’t as good as celebrities or others in our lives. Kids sing and dance and draw and create endlessly. It’s one of the most special parts of human nature. Somewhere along the line, we became ashamed though. We’ve gotten it into our heads that we don’t deserve to spend time and energy on these things unless we are “talented.” (Whatever that means.) So often when I show other people my drawings they respond with, “wow, I wish I could draw.” Sometimes they’ll even recount to me how much they loved to draw as a child. This is so heartbreaking to me, partially because I understand the feeling.

My sister is a wonderful artist. At the height of her painting career, I had already moved away from drawing, but certainly wouldn’t have felt it worthwhile anymore comparing myself to her artwork. Eventually she stopped painting all together though for another reason entirely. Her reason wasn’t that she wasn’t good enough, it was because she couldn’t make a living painting. This is the other side of the same problem. We either think we aren’t good enough, or that it isn’t worth it if we aren’t able to monetize our work. I have to suspect that our capitalistic culture is to blame for these absurd notions we all seem to share.

Even though I’ve been making a point to write and draw every single day for over a year now, I am still constantly battling my own self-doubt. There are definitely far more days where I create something I deem mediocre than days where I impress myself, but it’s important to remember that each of those days holds the same value. Art and creativity aren’t about being superior to others or making money. These endeavors are not limited to an exalted few. They are an essential aspect of human nature. We were made to create. There is no such thing as “talented” or “untalented.” It’s all a matter of perspective. The more you practice, the better you will inevitably become, but even that isn’t my point. My point is that it doesn’t matter.

Whether you believe what you create is “good” or not, keep creating! Art isn’t about comparison and metrics and measurements. We all contain a deep well of creative energy that we allow to stagnate from disuse. And if you find yourself still shaking your head thinking “I’m just not creative” imagine a crayon drawing given to you by a child. I feel most of us have had this experience or at least can imagine it. When I got a bit older, I thought adults must have just pretended to like my pathetic scribbles and misshapen forms. However, now as an adult myself, who is often the proud recipient of such art, I understand that my parents and teachers really did love what I created all those years ago. Art has the power to make people happy, to make you happy, if you let it. And it has nothing to do with how professional or perfect it is. Art is about who made it, not the final product.

I always think back to a little character my friend drew a few years ago while we were playing a game. She never does anything creative anymore, although she used to draw just as much as I did when we were kids. She was embarrassed to reveal this little doodle to me, but even all these years later, I think back on it and smile. It was so incredibly adorable (yet so far away from what she was “supposed” to draw for the game.) It brought me so much joy. It wasn’t just the drawing itself either. It was the fact that this wonderfully unique little creature had come out of the mind of my dear friend. Anything creative is a glimpse into the private mind of the creator, and that is where its value truly lies.

The saddest part of this whole cultural predicament is that our deeply ingrained beliefs about productivity, creativity, and talent leave a lot of us disillusioned with art all together. I want to say, if you like doing something, do it, whether you’re “good” at it or not. But that isn’t enough. The joy of creating has been tainted by these critical thoughts, so much so that I lot of us don’t enjoy creative pursuits. After all why would you enjoy something that makes you feel inferior and “untalented”? For this reason, I would encourage everyone to make an effort to integrate more creative hobbies into their daily routine, whether you think you’ll enjoy it or not. Just do it as an experiment. You may surprise yourself. At the very least, you’ll be giving your right brain some much needed exercise.

3 Common Fallacies About Creativity