The Cyclical Nature of Inspiration and Motivation

The Cyclical Nature of Inspiration and Motivation

    Creating art of any form is a gift. For people like me who love to flex that creative muscle, there’s just no feeling like that of creating something entirely new. I’ve felt this pull ever since I was a child, and back when I was little, I used to create in any way that I could. 

    As a child, it’s easy to get swept up in the creative process in all different ways, and since the adults around you often prefer to build you up regarding (or at least remain neutral about) your pursuits only to let the world crush you and do their dirty work for them, you never know if you’re actually good or bad at them.

    I drew out new fashion ideas, I made comedic videos, I colored, I wrote poetry, and I wrote fiction. Seriously, I did it all. I couldn’t quite understand that what I was chasing was the feeling of creating something — all I knew was that I liked to do something and have something tangible to show for it. It was almost better than eating way too much cake then taking a nap. Almost.

    Before I go any further into this and have you think that I was some sort of wunderkind, I need to point out that I am not a visual person. At all. Words are manageable because I’m a grammar nerd and because writing is practically like talking, and damned if I am not a good talker. But all of those other pursuits: the fashion, the videos, or any other visual art, yeah, they were not my strong suit. 

    I have a book full of fashion designs (that my sentimental ass will never get rid of) that are...well, have you ever seen a fashion design? With all of the angles and models that have the shapes of, you know, human bodies? Yeah, all of my designs were completely angular clothes without bodies in them, so I probably won’t be working for Armani anytime soon.

    The bottom line is: I’ve always enjoyed creating things. Whether or not I was good at them is up for debate (I wasn’t), but being creative has always come naturally to me. As a child with many fewer inhibitions than my adult self, I didn’t really face creative slumps, and if I did, I could just move onto the next medium. 

    Oh, no more poetic inspiration? Let’s design some fashion! No more motivation to design fashion? Let’s make movies! Even when I was younger, I had a healthy respect for the “shotgun method.” Just let me ramble on tape for an hour or so, and eventually comic gold would come out.

    But now, as an adult, recognizing that my talent isn’t unlimited and that writing is my focus, I don’t usually have something to retreat to when I’m not inspired or motivated to write. As much as I beat myself up every time I find myself in a creative slump, I’m starting to realize that inspiration and motivation are very much cyclical processes. Even though I want to feel like I can sit down at my computer and just crank out whatever, whenever, it just doesn’t work that way.

    First, we start with the best part. The days where I can’t seem to get the ideas to stop flowing. I’m writing down ideas, outlines, and even full blog posts like crazy, and I can’t seem to put my pen down or close my laptop. The motivation and inspiration feed off of each other. If I don’t get to work on this idea right now, it might escape! If I don’t do anything with all of this motivation and energy I have, it might escape!

    This most recently happened to me while Dan and I were on vacation and my poor partner was forced to stay in a hotel room with me while I typed until I had carpal tunnel. “Just one more idea, sweetie! Give me 5 more minutes!”

    Removing myself from my usual environment helped so much more than I thought it would, and while getting out of my house could help me be a lot more inspired, I normally need motivation to do that. Meaning that I also need the motivation to put on pants, which makes drawing on inspiration without motivation almost impossible.

    Luckily, after the initial large burst of inspiration, I just need continued motivation to finish what I started. Not particularly difficult considering the fact that the motivation is often tied to the crippling self-doubt that I will never have an interesting thought again when the inspiration wanes! If I just keep working on those ideas that past Renata came up with, maybe I can outrun the next phase...

    As I’m sure many other creative types will agree, this next phase is the phase that sucks eggs. This is where motivation and inspiration both start waning. While it was great that they fed off of each other while the ideas were flowing, now I’ve got nothing and they’re both making the other worse. If I don’t have ideas anyway, what’s the point of doing anything? If I don’t feel like doing anything, would trying to do something make me feel better? Probably not. Hello, Netflix!

    Then you get the crash. Everyone has experienced a crash before, like a sugar or caffeine crash, or the crash that you get when you come off a runner’s high (I can only assume, as I’m giving runners the benefit of the doubt that anyone could actually feel good while running). Crashing is the worst because YOU HAD EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED AND NOW IT’S GONE. You know exactly what it was like to feel inspired. It was just yesterday, after all, so why can’t you get it back?!

    Once the crash is over, you start to feel motivated to do stuff again. But without any inspiration, you have no idea what to actually do. I just try and keep myself off the couch long enough so that I’m prepared for when the inspiration comes back...if it ever does. I can’t write, so should I re-watch Parks and Recreation again? Or maybe go out with friends? Go for a run? Just kidding on that last one. 

    And of course, just when I think it never will, suddenly a new flood of ideas comes to me. Seriously, once I find inspiration and feel like I’m able to create again, I sometimes find myself in tears. I was afraid that it would never come, but it came! It came just the same! 

    I’m trying to remember that inspiration and motivation are cyclical. I can’t be inspired and motivated to create all of the time or else I would stop doing things like sleeping and eating and showering in favor of writing — so I think it’s best for myself and those around me that I don’t do that. It can be hard to remember that the inspiration will come back when you’re in the throes of a creative slump, though. 

    It’s like every month when I freak out to Dan because I just want to cry and eat every greasy thing in sight. Why am I crying? Why am I eating so unhealthy? Is this forever?! He just gently reminds me that in a week, my appetite will be back to normal. But we have the same discussion every month anyway, just to be safe.

    So if you’re a creator in a slump that feels like it will never end, let me be the person to remind you that inspiration and motivation are cyclical. It will come back, I promise! Your soul needs to create, and eventually that need will override any type of block that you’re having. And while I’m at it, go ahead and have a good cry and some dark chocolate. You deserve it.

    • M D M D :

      I never thought of inspiration and motivation as cyclical!! I usually just feel really bad when I don't want to do anything and don't really appreciate when I'm in a good workflow. I'll keep this in mind as the cycle keeps going- thanks for posting!

      3 years ago 
      • Renata L Renata L :

        As always, we're so in-sync! I definitely get myself caught up in a guilt cycle when I don't feel like creating content. We can be so hard on ourselves! I was going to let you know that I just posted the follow-up post to this one about Creating Your Own Inspiration, but I see that you've already found it! Thank you for your support <3

        3 years ago 
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