Inspiration is short-term; now ask yourself “What motivates me?”
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It may be a normal thing to refer to the word “inspiration” when talking about the creative arts, and “motivation” when talking about personal self-help. For example, if you Google “motivation for…”, Google autocompletes your search parameters to say “weight loss.” If you type in “inspiration for…”, the autocompletion is “writing”, (ignoring the search for “Inspiration Software, Inc.”)
But I’d like to make the case for motivation as a much more important word for songwriters than inspiration. As such, the most pertinent question you can ask yourself is not, “What inspires you as a songwriter”, but rather, “What motivates you?”
It’s not that inspiration is useless, as we all have inspirational people, events, moments, and other occurrences that inspire us to tap into our creative juices. But almost by definition, inspiration is fleeting. Creative inspiration usually comes from an event that is either unexpected (the death of a loved-one), or expected-but-powerful (the birth of a child), and everything in-between.
There is an intensity of emotion that accompanies inspiration, such that once the power of the emotion fades, inspiration fades as well.
So how does motivation differ from inspiration? Motivation can still come from intense events in our life, but makes a different kind of impact: something longer-lasting and more powerful in the longterm.
So while the death of a much beloved grandmother might inspire you to sit down and write a song to her memory, you might find that there is a more longterm possibility. For example, if your grandmother was always the one who encouraged you to write, you may find that her death serves as a reminder, each and every time you sit down to write, that you possess a powerful and rare gift that the world deserves to experience.
In that way, motivation is a more valuable tool for songwriters. Motivation is less likely to flare up and fade. Motivation may not provide you with that initial intensity of emotion that inspirational events are famous for. But that is, in fact, its power. Motivation is more likely to positively affect your writing over the course of your life.
Is motivation playing an important role in your songwriting? If not, it is worth the time to put your guitar and pencil down, and think about what provides you with your creative spark. In that regard, it is vital as a songwriter to not just ask yourself, “What motivates me”, but to write those motivations down.
So do that for yourself right now: ask yourself, “What motivates me?” at the top of a sheet of paper. Write down some one- or two-word answers, and tape it up somewhere that will get your attention every time you sit down to write.
Your longterm viability as a composer of music will need those answers.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter.
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