How do we behave when we’re inspired? We talk about inspiration being a great mystery and yet there’s no mystery in the difference between how we act when we’re inspired and how we behave when we’re not; the feeling of riding the crest of a wave, the drop in the stomach as we plummet.
As I was writing that, searching for the word plummet, my mind first thought of ‘plunder’. Even though, it wasn’t the right way to describe falling, it was a good word, because if we do plunder our imagination, we can only be left with a sense of being ransacked. Here is the cycle of panic, when we have not allowed ourselves to fall into a relationship with inspiration, understand its winks and ripples and sighs and silences.
Last year, I ran an event with Monica Ali on the theme of inspiration. I explained that I would speak for the first half and then she could read and talk, and then after that I would ask her questions before opening up to the audience. After reading from her work in progress, Monica talked about always being asked for advice and tips on writing. She then pulled out a folded piece of paper from her back pocket and began to read her list.
It’s valuable to see the footsteps of those in the snow before you follow. In NLP, we call this modelling. You look to the horizon for someone doing whatever it is you want to be doing, and then you follow the steps they took to get there.
If we talk about inspiration as something elusive, we deny those footprints in the snow. We say, ‘yes, I reached that glowing point on the horizon, but I’ve no idea how.’
I’ve worked with enough writers’ minds to understand that ‘not knowing’ isn’t the same as ‘does not exist’, and the danger if we don’t make the distinction.
If we imply inspiration is beyond us, out of our control, then where do we put it? No wonder there are so many writers, waiting for inspiration – that magical helicopter ride that will transport them over the vast plain of snow to the golden spot.
For me, I’ve learnt that inspiration comes from within. It can appear when I’m indoors – in the kitchen, in the shower, reading, watching a film, eating, dancing to music. It can also come when I’m outside – on a walk, swimming, throwing the frisbee for my dog, sitting in the garden, driving, riding a train.
I have specific areas that inspiration comes in – the idea for a YouTube vlog, a blog post, a talk, a chapter, a new mindset course, a retreat, my own personal and professional development. Then there’s inspiration about what to make for supper, what to wear – that moment I find myself combining clothes in my wardrobe in an entirely new way so that I think, ‘this has become my new favourite outfit!’ I might have ideas about a recent client. I can suddenly decide to have friends for the weekend, see a show in London, drive to the New Forest for a picnic. It’s all inspiration.
To lay all these ideas beyond me, say, ‘there are no footprints in the snow of how these arrived in my mind.’ Then I’m telling myself my life is not my own, that anything I want to think about relies on this magical helicopter I have supposedly no way of summoning.
The mind is aware there are specific points on the horizon – the office, the dentist, the supermarket – and that there are specific way to get to them all. Are we telling it that inspiration is an exception?
The mind also knows what happened the last time you were inspired. You may not remember those steps in the snow – we don’t hold every experience that has ever happened to us in our conscious brain. It would be like carrying a snapshot of every second of our life in our arms at any one moment. We keep the majority in our unconscious for safe keeping. Here, we store every step we’ve ever taken in the snow. A huge resource. By denying we ever took a step towards that glow of inspiration we deny ourselves access to that vital map.
What we use instead is a blank map, one that says, ‘I’ve no idea how it happened.’ We hold this map, covering our eyes so that we stumble, blind. This delusion becomes the painful, clumsy route to inspiration. We don’t realise that each step makes an imprint in the sand. Each moment we deny that footprint, we put inspiration on a plane of mysticism, giving it an otherworldly air, that we, in our humanness, could never know the way to.
Mindset work enables you to pick out the footprints – the ones made as you responded to inspiration’s golden draw – separating them from the blind blunders, so that the creative process becomes a focused walk, rather than a fraught stumbles, and you are finally writing, just the way you want.