Q: Do you always need to feel inspired to create?

I’ve been feeling very unmotivated recently when it comes to painting.

To be completely honest, I just feel like I can’t be bothered. I feel lethargic and ‘heavy’ when I think about it, like it’s too much effort for so little in return (meaning either an unfinished painting or worse — a painting I dislike).

Lying in bed last night I remembered several conversations I’ve had over the past couple of years about the nature of motivation and inspiration, and how our feelings aren’t actually the most reliable gauge in terms of whether or not we should do something.

Feeling lethargic and unmotivated doesn’t have to stop me from being creative. In fact, no feeling has the power to prevent me from doing anything without my complicity.

I can complain of feeling horribly uninspired and still put paint on a canvas. I can feel moody and bored and still doodle on a piece of paper. The act of being creative, then, is not the issue; the degree to which I take my thoughts and feelings seriously about being creative is.

Up until now, my mistake has been to wait to feel inspired before, or so that, I can paint. Of course, when I generally feel a bit “eugh” not a lot of painting (or much of anything else) gets done. I just get lost in my own world, consumed by my lack of energy and my story of feeling completely unmotivated.

And that’s another thing I’ve realised: My ego will always choose the path of least resistance. It will always prefer for me to stay in bed watching Netflix for hours on end. No pushing or challenging myself, nor straying from my (minuscule) comfort zone. But that’s not serving anyone, and that’s not what I really want deep down. So I have to make a choice, moment to moment, to pull myself up and do something.

You hear of writers who just start writing — anything — no matter how terrible it is. They just put words on paper and their mind thinks it’s all terrible but they keep going until suddenly they’re in flow. Words are suddenly unfolding like magic. It’s effortless and joyful. Surely it’s the same for artists? It’s all mess until suddenly it all comes together and looks like art.

I just need to get into the habit of making messes each morning. Of opening myself up to that space where inspiration is given freely. If I establish the practice of putting colour to paper each morning for the sheer process of getting into a creative space, perhaps I’ll overcome (even forget?) my feelings of disinterest and apathy and eventually find my mojo.

I don’t have to feel ‘inspired’ before I can be creative. Maybe I’ve had that backwards all along. What if being creative is exactly what I need to feel inspired in the first place?

L x

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