What Is Inspiration Exactly?

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ~Jack London

Here’s my attempt to boil down what inspiration really is, how we can benefit from it in our creative work and why it shouldn’t be confused with ‘motivation’.

A definition of inspiration: Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.

A definiton of motivation: Motivation is the energizer of behavior and mother of all action.

So, there’s a striking difference between the two, motivation is the mother of all action and inspiration relates to stimulation and emotions, and I must add; it’s also related to our experiences. Simply put: What we choose to do with our inspiration depends on our amount of motivation.

This article too has its inspiration from somewhere, more precisely a statement by Chuck Close at Reader’s Digest concerning the importance of ‘work’ as opposed to the importance of ‘inspiration’. My immidiate reaction while reading it was: Why should we only limit ourselves to one of them?

The fact is that we definitely shouldn’t. If we really do want our results to look inspired, then ideally we shouldn’t

  • work without having the amount of inspiration we need for producing creative results
  • be inspired without transferring that amount of inspiration into results

Just keep in mind that we don’t need inspiration in order to perform ‘easy’ tasks which are simply systematical processes, like organize archives, do research, schedule work needed to be done, answer e-mails and so on. That’s where motivation is the only requirement.

I agreed with Close’s main idea, which was the fact that we shouldn’t sit around and wait for something to just happen out of the blue. Sure, sometimes good ideas can come while relaxing with music, viewing art at exhibitions or reading at cafés, but for something to happen we obviously need to write down or sketch the ideas before we lose them, and it’s also crucial to plan when and how we intend to put the ideas into action.

It is my humble opinion that inspiration is needed in order to create some kickass ideas. It’s not the work in itself that usually produces ideas, but the experiences we had before we digged into the work. You’ve maybe felt some sparks of the so-called ‘creative ecstasy’ from time to time, making your mind feel tickling. That’s the stimulation. If you get that feeling while working, you’re on a very good path. Just remember not to stop while you’re ‘in there’.


Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. ~Pablo Picasso


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