Extraordinary Inspiration. Ordinary Sweat.

I thought it would be some kind of delicious biscuit for me to start writing an essay on inspiration in the depths of my gorging on a cork coaster.

… Ok, it pays for you to know the tv show Black Books inside out to understand this reference, but what I am basically saying is this: I’m going to treat myself to a deeper look at the event/actions of inspiration right at the moment that I am high and dry of any creative drop of it. As my frustration levels rise at my inability to create right as a deadline approaches, I’m going to take it upon myself to step back and look into the passion and problem of inspiration.

Naomi Livingston.
Naomi Livingston.

If creativity was a game of survival then Bear Grylls would say (and I paraphrase) “In survival the worst thing you can do is nothing. Better to make a wrong decision than none at all.” So in the game I call, “The Hunt for Inspiration”, just keep moving. And if you can’t go forwards to find it, try going backwards and it might find you. So what does this mean in reality?

Well, firstly, what is inspiration exactly? We know inspiration is what propels us to create, but how? A result of a temporary stimulatory moment or state? Some kind of gift from the gods? Electrical or magnetic messages floating in the ether until you somehow collect it? A mutated idea spawned from another? Something that is born of association with a specific muse?

I’m certainly not sure of the answer, but I don’t think we need to know. I think what is important to understand about inspiration is that it is a gift, made to be used and valued. A chance for us “to breathe upon” an idea or action and have it come to life and make change.

And what I find so powerful about inspiration is it can be gifted to the most “ordinary” of us, but inspiration itself is not ordinary. It has the capacity to be transcendent, transformative or even revolutionary.

We, as conduits for this inspiration, can often balk at this responsibility. We, as guardians and caretakers of inspiration, soar in the moments of these creative flows, then stumble to a halt when inspiration leaves us and our ordinariness becomes blindingly apparent once again. We long for moments of inspiration to return so we feel the breath we give our ideas are once again validated or approved so we can again ride the ride and progress our creation further. And some of us have the fortune of inspiration being our partner from point A to point B.

At this point in my ordinary journey I want to shake my fist at the gods, or muses, or magnetic fields and scream out for the irresistible feeling once more, but then I remember, even if inspiration does take us to our creations fruition, what happens after that? How do we deal with being an ordinary who has created something extraordinary. Do we even still believe it is without that buzzing tingle of inspiration holding us in its somewhat fearless hands?

And here’s the thing. Our creation, though inspired, may be ordinary. But this is not the point. Inspiration is a gift, a state, a moment that spurs us to do something, but inspiration is also a palpable human quality we can possess, not to benefit ourselves, but to gift to others. We can be an inspiration. We can inspire. Our final creations may not be inspiring within themselves, but our bravery, our daring to take that inspiration to completion (even after its initial visit is a distant flicker in the back of our minds, or the depths of our hearts) is what keeps inspiration moving, from ourselves to the next recipient and on again.

So I think inspiration is part intangible and faithful moments of innovation or ingenuity and part sweat, blood and tears as we commit to the somewhat torturous promise we make to inspirations initial siren song.

So why punish ourselves by dancing with inspiration if it is not to benefit ourselves personally? If only to grind our noses for the sake of others? Well, what power is left in your creation if it was not meant to be given to others? What is the purpose of art? If it is being used purely to further a person’s own status or standing then it is not inspiration, it is publicity and propaganda. If true inspiration is indeed like its original Latin root “to breathe upon”, then it is our life force, our vital spark, meant to keep us alive (or #living) and shared with the world. We do all breathe the same air after all.

So, in the game of creative survival, keep moving. And if we can’t chase inspiration, go back, step back and get perspective. Or in one of my favourite quotes by Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Working for you, working for your creation, and ultimately, working for the world. Be an inspired inspiration, or if inspiration leaves you, continue to be an inspiration by keeping on. So chew on that delicious biscuit and appreciate the passion and problem of inspiration!

Naomi is a performer and writer. She recently appeared in the national tour of Les Miserables. She and her husband Drew recently released an album – So Long Lives This – which is featured onAussieTheatre’s recordings page. For more information on Naomi Livingston, visit www.drewandnalivingston.com

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