“Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.” - Madeleine L’Engle
When we think of inspiration, we often imagine it as a bolt of lightning striking us out of nowhere. We imagine creative geniuses like L’Engle sitting in their studies, waiting for inspiration to strike before they can begin writing. But as L’Engle points out, this is not how inspiration usually works. Instead, inspiration comes while we are in the act of creating, rather than before it.
This idea may seem counterintuitive at first. After all, how can we create something if we don’t feel inspired to do so? But the truth is that inspiration is not some magical force that descends upon us from on high. It is something that we create through our own efforts. When we sit down to write or paint or compose music, we are creating the conditions that allow inspiration to arise.
L’Engle understood this intuitively. She knew that the act of creating was itself a kind of inspiration. When we immerse ourselves in the work, we open ourselves up to new ideas and possibilities that we might not have thought of otherwise. We tap into a kind of creative flow that can carry us along, even when the work is difficult or challenging.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should simply start creating without any preparation or planning. L’Engle was a firm believer in the importance of discipline and practice. She knew that the more we work at our craft, the more we create the conditions for inspiration to hit us.
We need to put in the effort to create, even when we don’t feel particularly inspired. It’s is what separates the amateur from the professional; the hobbyist from the artist. The amateur waits for inspiration to strike, while the artist creates the conditions for inspiration to arise.
Inspiration is not something that happens to us; it is something that we create. We create it through our discipline, our practice, and our willingness to show up every day and do the work. We don’t wait for inspiration to strike; we create the conditions that allow it to happen. When it does, we’re ready to seize it and turn it into something beautiful.