Inspiration is whatever excites you enough to start writing. The stereotypical image is something like a waterfall — something that takes your breath away, invades your creative mind, and prompts you to pick up your guitar and a pad of paper to try to set feelings to music.
The problem with that kind of inspiration is that it is usually fleeting. It comes and goes, and you can’t rely on it.
There’s a great quote attributed to author Stephen King: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
You’ll find that the act of writing a song, where you weren’t particularly inspired to do so in the first place, is what the professionals do. There’s another quote by American composer Leonard Bernstein that I’ve mentioned in previous posts on this blog:
“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long.”
And so what is the approach for when inspiration isn’t happening? What do you do if you find yourself feeling creatively lethargic?
If you’re an experienced songwriter, you’ve likely found that the act of songwriting creates within you a kind of artistic excitement that, to varying degrees, keeps you going. In other words, songwriting is itself a generator of inspiration.
And if you’re experienced, you know this. You have probably found that you don’t need to wait to feel inspired. You already know that within a few short moments of setting to work, you’re going to feel a kind of musical excitement — inspiration — rising within your musical mind.
Just like a lazy runner will usually feel more motivated at the end of a run than at the beginning, the best way to fight off the creative doldrums that often happen during holidays is to pick up your guitar and start writing.
As Bernstein says, to simply sit and wait for inspiration amounts to a lot of wasted time: the wait is usually too long.
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