How often do you feel uninspired? The metallic taste of envy is most poignant when you are both uninspired and observing brilliant innovative clever work out there in the world. Social media is especially great at showing you how awesome everyone else is, serving to push you deeper into that bottomless pit of desperate desire for some little spark to get you going. The scene of the frustrated composer from Sesame Street is funny because it is true. We start and we stop hundreds of times in our mind. We are lucky if any of our ideas make it to our canvas (whatever that canvas might be).
A blank canvas is the scariest thing for someone who creates. People consider me a creative person, yet, there I was yesterday playing a board game with friends and I had to fill in a blank. So simple, just a word or phrase of anything. A completely open field. No wrong answer possible. Anything. What did I have from my vast well of creative stuff? Nothing. Nada. Blank. I stared at that canvas and it just stared back. I felt foolish because I was afraid of holding up the game. What do I do? Come on… where is that “ping” of an idea that comes so easily for me most of the time? Zip. I ended up cheating and using one of the other phrases listed on the card instead. I felt I had cheated because the blank was my opportunity to exercise my creative will. When it was offered to me, I choked. Horrible. Or so I thought.
Then, later, I noticed a post from a graduate of our college who has been struggling a bit. He posted that he wanted to be producing work, but just didn’t have the spark. My first reaction was, “just do something.” I responded to his post with , “Make some ugly babies!” This is a phrase we use around the college when we want our students to break out of stifling moments. So often we get caught up in doing the right thing, or making an excellent piece. So often our best work happens when we aren’t trying to do our best work, and our worst work comes from our greatest effort to do something awesome.
I realized that being uninspired is the most free place you can be. You have permission to do anything. ANYTHING. Being uninspired is a liberating place. So often we see that place of total and complete freedom as a limitation. By contrast, being inspired is the limitation. Inspiration makes production easier because you have a purpose or a direction. A focus for your creative will. Being uninspired is your mind’s way of giving you a free pass. It is permission to produce something completely crappy or completely brilliant. It doesn’t matter which it is. It could go either way.
Being uninspired also gives you the freedom to shift your focus. It is a chance to develop a skill you don’t often work on. If you primarily write, then you can be uninspired and suck at playing the ukulele for a while. One thing is certain. Being inspired is inevitable. That spark will reignite and you will have to return to a state of inspiration working within the confines of that vision. You will be forced to return back to the easy direction to follow because the inspiration you had was such a clear concept.
Less than 24 hours later, that same graduate had posted a photo of some work he had completed. He immediately embraced my call to action. I was glad I was able to support him in my own way from the sidelines. The power of being uninspired was at work here.
So, the next time you are in the creative doldrums, just do something. Embrace the freedom to do anything. Embrace the freedom that any choice will be the right choice. Don’t waste the opportunity of being uninspired. Inspiration will return soon enough, so get to work. Make some ugly babies!