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Having Ideas Is More Perspiration Than Inspiration

The process of having great ideas is more graft than grace.

I love the feeling of being in the middle of receiving a fresh idea.

It feels like there is a transmission trying to get through but you haven't tuned into the correct frequency yet, and it's not quite clear enough. With a little patience though it arrives, often fully formed.

I've heard songwriters describe the process of writing a song as like trying to catch a feather in a breeze. I love that image. You can see what you want and it's still just slightly out of reach, moving precariously on the wind, it could be lost in an instant. All you can do is wait patiently with your hands open, ready to catch it when it finally lands.

I believe that ideas and creativity come along as a combination of both grace and graft. You have to have the openness to receive, but also you have to have put the hard work in too. You have to work creativity like a muscle. You build it up day by day as you would with weights in a gym. You practice and hone your own creativity according to your medium; painters paint and sketch, musicians write songs and learn scales, riffs and licks, and writers, well, they write.

If you put the daily work in, when you need to call upon inspiration it more readily flows. That's the grace.

It's a process and you begin to trust it more and more.

"The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time."

I have cultivated a level of self-belief over years and years of practice, that when I need an idea or some inspiration, it will be there, and it rarely lets me down. In fact, I would go as far as to say it never lets me down, only I do. When I'm over-analysing and over-thinking, pushing too hard and not trusting, then I struggle to be able to pick up on the early whisperings that an idea often takes the form of, in its infancy. Those early murmurings are like delicate seeds. They need nurturing with gentle kindness, and any over-analysis or cold logic will trample all over those little idea kernels.

In order to ensure that we don't miss out on those little gifts of inspiration, we need to have the ears to hear, the eyes to see and the heart to feel what others aren't paying attention to. We need to be in the world in a different way, if we want to create different things. We need to be alert at all times for those soft whispers of something new calling out just to us. If the truth be known it's always calling us, but we aren't always listening. The sweetest inspiration can be in the simplest of things. A conversation at a bus stop. The way the wind moves through the trees while you watch from a window. The misheard lyrics of a song on the radio.

I trust the alchemy of ideas too. I love how one and one often equals three. One thought leads to another, and then to another and before long, something new and fresh has emerged.

I trust that you need to have lots of bad ideas in order to arrive at the few great ideas. I love the bad ideas as much as the good ones. The bad ones often only reveal themselves to be bad in hindsight anyway, at the time they are the springboard for a flow of inspiration that seemed so right in that moment. It's only later when the idea has been honed and refined that the initial concept seems so innocent. That innocence makes me smile though. That was the seed that became the oak tree.

The thing is you can never truly know which seed is going to be the one that blooms and grows the deepest roots, and that is what keeps the creative process so fresh and exciting.

Then, of course, there is the magic of collaboration. When two or more people get together on a creative venture, and there is trust, the oxygen of fresh ideas can fan the initial embers into a raging fire.

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

So, while inspiration itself remains elusive and ineffable, perhaps the process of making ourselves an open receiver for when it comes is all we can ever do. That's the graft in order to get the grace.

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