Sometimes inspiration does not come on demand. This is a sad fact that most reporters, authors and artists would like to avoid, but I would be willing to guess that a creative “block” of some sort has affected everybody at some point.
The first time I remember it happening to me was in fourth grade. My teacher Bobbi Stalls passed out an essay assignment to prepare us for the state-standardized writing test that would befall us for the first time that year. The prompt: Write about three similarities and three differences between Republicans and Democrats.
I divided my essay page to allot the correct amount of lines per paragraph, and then I remember listlessly staring the paper down for some time. What insurmountable weight was placed on my chest as I doubted whether I would even be able to fill the paper void in front of me with words. Make no mistake, parents. Elementary school is stressful.
The essay took me some time to complete and I doubt it was very good. The topic was not very interesting to me, but I must have managed to get something down as I sit here in 2010 having graduated the fourth grade.
Everybody has their conscious and subconscious outlets for inspiration. Movies are some of mine, especially when I see them in the theater. Something about that simulated importance glowing on the silver screen in the dark room makes that melody or line of dialogue pop into my head. Of course, I then realize I am stuck at the movies and have no way to get my thoughts out. It almost makes me want to shout “Stop the movie! Hey guys, what do you think about this column idea?”
I have found that one of the more surefire ways not to become inspired is to actively seek inspiration. When I try to think of column ideas, for instance, I can’t go read columns in newspapers and magazines and draw anything from it. On the contrary, I feel like my ideas are limited even further because someone else has already covered topics a, b and c.
When I am working on some sort of project and cannot figure out what to do, I often just walk away for a little while and do something else. With major projects, this refreshment strategy often backfires on me when it becomes outright procrastination.
Better, then, is giving myself a splash of cold water to the face, a good hair-pulling and a pinch on the arm before throwing myself wholeheartedly into work. Often I feel our worst enemy when trying to get something done is the sentiment that something needs to be done, because we then associate an involuntary aspect with the task ahead.
If some major task causes us dread, we will probably only feel better once it is completed. I remember having to write philosophy essays in college over prompts that were so wretched I would put them off for as long as I could. When I would finally grit my teeth and put down a paragraph, the gratification I experienced was almost like finishing the entire essay just because I was that much closer to finishing than I was when all I could do was worry about having to do the assignment.
In short, sometimes the only way to move is forward. It may be tough at times, but when you do your homework, you can more easily bask in the glory of recess.