Isn’t it wonderful to feel inspired? Whether one is inspired by the Holy Spirit or an awesome YouTube video, it is a beautiful thing to be “in the zone” – calm, focused, energized, on fire with enthusiasm, ideas flowing freely and doubts falling away. From the Old French inspiracion: “inhaling, breathing,” the word implies a state in which we naturally and effortlessly take in that which gives life to our vision. Inspiration can be spontaneous, unconscious, “under the radar,” or it can be consciously sought out and acted upon. It can be a tiny seed of a thought, a starting point for something which might turn in a whole different direction or it can be a deliberate decision to recreate in our own way something that deeply touched us. It can be a sudden flash of insight, or a sustained commitment to an ideal. We can be inspired by a person, an idea, a story, a work of art, by……practically anything.
Inspiration has little to do with grim determination, persistence, or the achievement of a goal by the sweat of one’s brow, all of which may yet be necessary for success. We all know the quote from Thomas Edison that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, and I think we all accept that great things don’t just happen by themselves, without the hard work of doing. But we might also say that without that 1% inspiration, all the sweat would be for nothing. We might also say that it shows the incredible power of inspiration that we need only that tiny 1% to take flight.
Inspiration is all around us. If you have an open, inquiring attitude you will surely never run out of ready sources of inspiration. Some people are inspired by the natural world – the smell of the sea or the view from a mountaintop. Some love the excitement of travel, of experiencing different cultures and exotic locations. (If the budget is tight, make it virtual travel!) Some find that just listening to music and talking to other musicians fills them with more ideas than they know what to do with. Read a book. Take a walk. Go dancing. Learn another meditation technique. Browse some new Pinterest boards or YouTube performances. It has never been easier to access a whole world of inspirational possibilities.
Yet somehow, when we find ourselves stuck in a joyless rut, seeking inspiration is usually not our first thought, although it should be. Perhaps our pride gets in the way; we feel we are cheating, simply looking for something to imitate. We feel we shouldn’t “need” inspiration if we are really talented musicians. Or we just get lazy and forget that we can only get so far by feeding on our own fat (although some organists set high value on doing precisely that). Whatever holds us back, it is a mistake; we need to find that joyous 1%. So wake up, look around and get inspired! You may be surprised.