Do you ever find yourself waiting for inspiration to strike? And then when it finally does, you’re naked, you’re wet and you didn’t bring a sketchbook into the shower with you?
Just me, huh? Well, this is awkward.
Throughout history, many people have credited their inspiration to a wondrous and mysterious figure that goes by the name, Muse. Not the British prog-rockers you might be thinking of—the Greek mythological figures.
Here’s what Wikipedia says:
The Muses in Greek mythology are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures. They were later adopted by the Romans as a part of their pantheon.
In current English usage, “muse” can refer in general to a person who inspires an artist, writer, or musician.
I believe that everyone is born with amazing creative potential, but it’s silly to think we have to wait for the right moment to use it. Inspiration is a powerful force, but it shouldn’t dictate when or how your creativity works.
In the last issue I shared my story about what it was like giving a public talk, but I didn’t share what the talk was about. To best explain it, I’d like to share another story with you about a dream I had.
The beginning of this story might sound familiar to you—once upon a time, late one night I was scratching my head, struggling to come up with ideas for a short story.
I’d spent the good part of the night hunting for inspiration, but to no avail. And believe me, I tried everything: enjoying a nice Taco Bell dinner, playing Call of Duty, even binge watching Lost, but for some reason none of that worked.
I had zero ideas. Why had the Muse abandoned me when I needed it the most?!
After several failed “attempts” at getting inspired I decided to go to bed, frustrated and empty handed (and empty headed, for that matter).
But a few hours later, something interesting happened… I had a dream.
I dreamt that I was floating up in the corner of my room, looking down on myself writing in my notebook like I was some creepy ghost. And in this lucid dream, I looked over dream me’s shoulder and saw a brilliant idea that he’d written out.
It was a profound and surreal moment. My subconscious had solved a problem and was presenting it to me inside of a dream.
The excitement literally woke me from sleep. I quickly grabbed my real life notebook and scribbled down what I’d seen. In that moment, it felt like I’d won the lottery. All my troubles and anxiety vanished. And with a smile on my face I laid back down to sleep.
Cut to the next morning.
I open my eyes and instantly remember—MY DREAM IDEA. While I couldn’t remember what the idea was, I knew that it was great. I grabbed my notebook and anxiously flipped it open, just dying to see what my subconscious had left me.
Now, I don’t have the original, but here’s what I remember that note looking like:
Is your mind blown?
For those of you that need translation, it says “frog + explosion.” And the word “explosion” is underlined for emphasis.
This is what I had waited all night for. This is what the muse had saved for me. THIS… was complete gibberish. I have no idea what that was supposed to mean and it certainly wasn’t inspired.
What a waste of time and energy.
Though an exercise in futility, I learned something valuable from that experience. I learned that waiting for inspiration to strike doesn’t work. And I learned that creativity isn’t some mysterious thing that speaks to us—we are creativity.
You’re probably thinking, “Okay, dude. So now what? If I am my own source of creativity, how do I tap into it?” Great question.
Here’s a quote from legendary animator, Chuck Jones, that I think applies to this situation:
“Every artist has thousands of bad drawings
in them and the only way to get rid of them
is to draw them out.”
- Chuck Jones
The next issue of TLDR will delve into the answer to that question. And yes, it will involve more embarrassing and informative stories. So stick around.
REFERENCE ROUND UP
I meant to include this in the first issue, but here are some links that I thought you’d find useful:
Nancy Duarte: The Secret Structure of Great Talks
Very meta, but this a TED talk about giving great talks. It will blow your mind.
Jeremey Donovan: How To Deliver a TED Talk
An excellent (and thorough) analysis of the TED talk format.
Simon Sinek: Start With Why
One of my favorite speakers. If you haven’t watched this, watch this. And here’s a link to his book, Start With Why.
Self-proclaimed “Thought Leader” Gives Talk on “Thought Leadership”
I love this. It’s a perfect satire of the ubiquitous TED talk.
Some comedic relief for you.
Chuck Jones: The Evolution of an Artist
Nice little interview and highlight reel of Chuck Jones’ animation.
See you next time, TLDRers.