Inspiration Didn’t Strike This Week

Every week, I try to reach into the bag and pull out a free-form post. It’s a time to pick at a scab, talk out something that’s been bothering me, interesting me or is happening in the world and see what comes out. More often than not, these posts come easily. An idea hits, and I run with it. Some are better than others, but it is rarely a challenge to come up with a topic. It’s unusual that there isn’t something nagging at the back of my mind and that has served me and this blog well.

This week, that didn’t happen. I put my hand into the bag, but came out with nothing. For one reason or another, “the muse” didn’t visit. Thankfully it’s not a problem… You see, inspiration is great and I welcome it when it appears, but I can’t count on it. If I expect it, the time will inevitably arrive when I need it and it just isn’t there.

While not finding an idea to blog about may not seem like the end of the world, this has always been a bit of an achilles heel for me. Not just with writing, but projects, diets, workout regiments and more have fallen victim to my expectations for some magic force to make things happen. I was counting on the undependable. I’d run short of inspiration, skip a day and before I knew it, I’d fallen off one wagon or another.

There are lots of things I’m attempting to do to overcome this little shortcoming of mine, but if I had to key in on the one thing that’s making the biggest difference, it’s this: I started capturing everything. Ideas, thoughts, quotes, and am willing to jot down nearly anything that occurs to me. It may seem like a waste of time, that I’d be better off focusing my energy on what I’m supposed to be focusing on rather than whatever happens to pop into my head, but quickly creating this reserve of ideas has served me well. In fact, the genesis of this very post, the idea that you shouldn’t count on inspiration, comes from a note I made on the subway on May 12th.

In any project, you want inspiration to be there at the beginning and while it might rear its elusive head along the way, you don’t want it to be the thing you count on. You want it to mix with your instincts, you want to let it fuel your passion and you want it to help drive your idea forward. But don’t get lazy; don’t fall victim. Know that one day, you’re going to reach in and find nothing. Be prepared, plan your next steps and have a reserve of ideas that relate to all of your active projects. Trust me, when you find yourself high and dry, you’ll thank me.

How about you? What do you do when you have nothing? How do you stay on track when the tracks just don’t seem to want to play along?

24 Responses to Inspiration Didn’t Strike This Week

  1. Love your sentiment about “the muse”.

    I feel the same way: I write with or without that magic. If it’s around, fine. If not, fine. I try to keep in mind that I’m writing a draft of something that doesn’t need to be good to go on the first try. Or ever. And then it’s just a matter of assessing where I’m at on a regular basis: what is ready to go, what needs a little editing, what needs A LOT of editing, and what is throw away. This planning process also doesn’t require “a muse”.

    My feeling perhaps goes something like this: “screw the muse, just keep at it!”

    • Yeah, not really sure where I fall on the whole muse thing. Loved the idea of it when reading War of Art, but still can’t quite believe. Then again, some days it comes a hell of a lot easier than others…

      The throw away bit I still struggle with. I can kill sentences, ideas, paragraphs, but rarely an entire post. Still have this, “you have to use all parts of the buffalo” approach to writing. But that probably will come with the maturity not to publish… (soooo no there yet). I like your motto, mine would probably be “Chances are the muse doesn’t visit at 1am on a Tuesday” :)

  2. I rarely have nothing at all, but I’ve noticed that when I don’t prioritize my blog over Facebook, G+ and Twitter, I use up all my creative juice there. So I try to stay in the creation habit. My big issue now is time – I created two weeks of posts weekend before last. Where are they? Still in draft mode. No time to edit and publish.

    But since that time is spent with clients I suppose that’s a good thing.

    • Yeah, I spent a lot of time doing exactly that during my “worlds worst blogger who doesn’t blog all that often” (nowadays I am the “worlds worst blogger who blogs often”). It’s just easier, faster and the responses from others gives you that warm and tingly feeling. 

      I hear you on the time, but if you are getting to the draft but not the final, it may pay to have someone edit for you. Not sure how “drafty” you consider a draft, but if it is just clarifying and fixing chimp grammar, outsource :) 

      Then again, it really depends on what you’re blogging for. For me, I’m just trying to cultivate better habits and just spending more time thinking critically. That made it worth finding the time.

  3. I was thinking how you could run with the scab story and how it got infected and you ended up losing your right arm and had to learn how to wipe………..er, uh comb your hair with your left hand or something. Yes, that was so wrong on so many levels but I couldn’t resist………

    I look at my notes, the titles I have written down, online, etc. This past weekend was somewhat hard for me hence, a similar post to this.

    I just need to be careful and not wait until the 11th hour because pressure usually does not bring inspiration; I’m hoping I have captured something during the week and can expand on.

    Good post and I’ll try to keep the scab references to a minimum if you do as well………..

    Have a good one. 

    • Another post, for another blog, for another day :) You know what I like about you good sir, that you don’t resist! Makes me look forward to these comments of yorus :)

      Oh, I know exactly what you mean. I often try to get down a title and at least a sentence, this way it kind of feels like picking up where you left off… falling back into stride if you will.  

      As for the 11th hour, I hear you. I try to have most of the writing for the week done by Saturday. This way my wife can fix my chimp grammar on Sunday and I can get back to coming up with nonsense with a week to spare :)

      Here’s to more scab references and not less! Have a great one!

  4. What do I do when I have nothing? I still write. It’s in my blood. I trust in the words over myself or any ideas of inspiration. I do like when she (Inspiration is a “she” in my world.) visits, but I know not to count on her. She’s rather fickle.

    As for keeping myself on track, it’s a little easier with the blog. I wrote a post about how often I would publish, so I’m committed to the decision. The same goes for posts I write for clients. I have to write those things, or I can say good-bye to those clients. My poetry’s a littler harder. I used to have someone who kept me accountable in that department, but he and I have a big mess of a relationship at the moment.

    • I’m still cultivating the habit, especially when you consider my inconsistent past. With the blog I see it as I do a diet, there is always this constant unconscious knowledge that you could cheat, that you could skip a day or eat that donut and as @bdorman264:disqus put it in his post, the sun would still come up. 

      As for the accountability issue, sorry to hear about the relationship, I’m sure that there are plenty of us that could form into some monstrous accountability group :)

      • Even I have the tendency to “fall off the wagon,” and I’m an over-achieving perfectionist. Once I start skipping the habit, it gets easier and easier to skip. It just makes it that much harder when I return to whatever it was that I was skipping, whether it be writing, drawing, or running. 

        As for the accountability, I do have another person with whom I chat occasionally. She sends me short stories to read, and I send her poems. I also committed to submitting more poems this year, so that helps. 

        • But you were my only hope… :) Couldn’t agree more, “skip” days tend to multiply or mate or something…

          Thankfully my wife serves well on the reminding me I’m a lazy ass front :)

          • Sorry to disappoint, but I am all too human. I think “skip” days multiply but only after mating, kind of like rabbits or mice. 

            It sounds like you and your wife make a great team. :)

  5. I have a humble answer for you and Bill. It’s called Blog Soup. Because you don’t need inspiration to make soup. Or desperation. You just need a heart. Or honesty. Or both.

    1. It curates people. 
    2. It gives them links better than a tired old back link. 
    3. It can serve an army of desperate, exhausted, and aching bloggers and media socialistas.

    Recently on my blog: Why This Blog Post Sucks! http://wp.me/sbg0R-1738

  6. Comfort for an inspiration seeker, thanks Michael. Intriguing how that scab thingie gets me sidetracked … I guess we all have our little secrets! Easy for me to say I am not worried when my hand comes out empty, I do not make a living from writing and yet I care to write something meaningful each time. I keep lists of themes, possible titles and drafts and I mark my photos for potential use. When the muse still refuses to kiss me (might go in search of a frog next time) I walk someplace else, for instance I go to your site and comment, and bingo a new idea comes up – maybe. And I will make sure to credit you with the frog crown. Have a wonderful day and may your hand never come out empty, Barbara

    • The scabs used to derail me as well. That’s why I find capturing them and moving on so helpful. This way when I come back to it, the interest is still there and I expand or the moment has passed and I move on. 

      Looking forward to earning a crown. And while I’m sure my hand will reach in and come out empty again, I can assure you, I’ll aways have an idea or ten in reserve! 

  7. Yes, inspiration in blogging is a funny thing my friend. For the most part, over the course of these two years I’ve had my blog, I think I’ve only been without topic, ie ‘stumped’, a couple of times. Like you, I have my little thought pad, and try to jot those little bolts as they enter my little brain.

    Bottom line, I think the biggest key to blogging inspiration is that we are actually out there heavily participating in the ‘battle of life’, that we’re experimenting, pushing, stretching our talents, seeking the new, etc. If we have that mentality, ever day seems to bring with it a new story.

    But don’t sell yourself short on this Michael. You do it well. I find you very creative of thought, most definitely.

    Take care bud,

    Marcus

    • Oh, don’t get me wrong… I don’t think it’s a selling myself short thing. Just a reality. Imagine what it would be like if you never jotted your ideas down. If you just expected them to come at whim. You’d inevitably find yourself lost. It sucks, but it’s reality.

      The only thing that I’d add (and I think you’d probably agree) is that it is more than just participating. There is a lot of thinking and synthesizing involved. You know, I read your post today and imagine you only ever did Hubspot, but never sat down and took the time to have that realization. I find the taking a step back to examine to be just as important as every step forward. 

      The pain is in just finding that right balance of the doing and the thinking.

  8. Hi Michael,

    You still talk of scabs, Sir? You’re giving that Dorman guy too much to work with. 😉

    I’m not much for dispensing advice as I’m so new to this game, but since you mentioned The Muse we can talk about Mr. Pressfield and his little book out of Seth Godin’s mill, “Do the Work.”

    What has worked for me so far is to commence writing first thing in the morning, every weekday for an hour. Sometimes nothing comes, but I can usually eek out something, and even if it’s not the greatest, it’s usually a foundation for a post. I’m sticking to that plan.

    It’s funny, about half my posts started out as something else entirely. I had the best intentions, but once I started to write it turned into another topic. The creative process, eh?

    Anyway Do The Work, works for me.

    • I like to lob him softballs… he thinks he is getting a mental workout and I feel as if I’m doing a public service.

      I’m still a bigger lover The War of Art, but loved Do The Work as well. Enjoyed DTW, but TWOA just made me realize how important the work was, even when the muse was absent. And that the muse would likely be absent if I wasn’t the one doing the work.

      I often find the same thing with my writing. An idea will hit, I capture it expecting to go in a certain direction and as I keep going (or when I circle back to it later) it takes me in a completely unexpected direction. That said, I’d lose the idea entirely if I didn’t capture it in the first place.

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