I’m not a morning person. I make no bones about it, either. I don’t snap out of bed as soon as the alarm rings. Instead, I hit the snooze button repeatedly until I can no longer fool myself into thinking that it’s not actually morning yet.
I don’t transition well from slumber to activity.
Some mornings, it takes two full minutes before I remember what day it is. Often, the first thought in my head is “Am I late for something?” I don’t oversleep very often, actually, but the few times I did, it was so drastic that it left a deep, lasting impression on my psyche. One morning in graduate school, I woke up at 10:00 on the last day of the ESL class I was teaching. The problem was that my class started at 9:00 a.m. Oops.
If I have to go to work, I get up with enough time to allow myself to linger a little while over coffee, or to stand under the hot shower just a few minutes longer. If I don’t have to be anywhere, my mornings are slow, languid, and punctuated by cups of coffee and play sessions with the girls.
This pattern has repeated itself in a larger scale throughout my whole life. I’ve often said that I suffer from inertia. Once in motion, I’ll work steadily for a long time. Then I’ll slow down. After a while, I’ll tell myself that it’s time to get working on something, but I hit the snooze button for several weeks before I finally take any action.
As for my current semester, the Middle Ages are over. I’m heading into the corner that leads me into the home stretch. I know it. I can feel it. I can almost taste it. I’m waking up.
But…I’m still groggy from the 5-week stupor. My inspiration lags. My motivation is abstract and slippery. I have a hard time keeping hold of it.
What is inspiration anyway? Where does it come from? How do we tap into it? Coffee works for my morning routine, but how can I get myself kick-started in the larger sense?
Inspiration. From the Latin: inspirare, meaning ‘to breathe in’. It meant ‘immediate influence of God or a god’ from circa 1300. Around 250 years later, it referred to the literal act of breathing in air. It took another 300 or so years before inspiration also meant ‘one who inspires others’.
So, maybe some deep breathing will do the trick? Finding a muse?
Sometimes I think that the problem I find with defining – or finding – inspiration is that my mind gets in the way. What I mean is that when I try to reason my way into being inspired, it rarely works. When I stop looking for inspiration and let my mind wander, I am inundated with sparks, epiphanies, and eurekas. That’s all well and good, but it only takes me so far. I still need my rational brain to make something of those flashes, otherwise they float away, back into the ether whence they came.
When the morning fog is still sitting in the twists and turns of my brain, however, letting my mind wander in order to find inspiration often results in falling asleep. Even if I do get an idea, my rational left brain is telling my inspired right brain to shut the heck up because it’s tired and overworked and has yet to get a raise or a Christmas bonus.
In short, my muse is still sleepy and confused, but my ego is disgruntled and apathetic, and the super-ego is on strike.
This post, in fact, was written by a scab.
In the midst of this minor existential crisis, I have not been writing. There have been too many factions still inactive, warring with each other, or struggling with completing tasks that need to be done regardless of my state of mind.
I have looked for inspiration and have found hints here and there, and germs of ideas have been planted, waiting to be given form. Slowly, I will find ways to emerge from slumber. The weather is cooler, which always energizes me and also allows me to start running again without vomiting (which happens when I try to run in warm weather.) The semester’s end game will begin after Thanksgiving, and that also tends to quicken the pace of life.
In the meantime, I beg forgiveness for the erratic nature of my posting and commenting, which will probably continue for another few weeks, but will settle as soon as I’ve had another metaphorical cup of coffee.
I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!
How do you all find inspiration?
I wish I had the ability to write such an eloquent post about a lack of inspiration. This was incredible, Leonore. I would never have guessed this post was written by a scab.
I loved the line, “…otherwise they float away, back into the ether whence they came.” Just love it.
Take your time and enjoy your snooze. I assure you, your muse is still very much present, based on this post. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you, Lenore! As I wrote in my comment on your site, the universe was telling me that I was on the right track when I saw your post, so you need to take some of the muse credit! Plus, getting such a compliment from a great writer makes me think I might be doing something right :)
Happy Thanksgiving to you, Leonore! My last post (not the one I just put up today) actually featured the “Motivation” demotivator! Love despair.com!
I know exactly how you feel about needing a balance between the organic inspiration and the more rational kind. I definitely haven’t figured it out yet, so am eternally grateful that I have more guilty pleasures than I know what to do with, LOL
I love that site, too. I think those posters should be a totally guilt-free pleasure.
Glad to know I’m not alone here! Wouldn’t it be nice if inspiration worked more consistently so we could figure out exactly when and where to tap into it?
I’ve got a gazillion things I want to write about, but it’s kind of like when you have a closet full of clothes that you really like, but for about a week or so, you just can’t seem to find anything you feel like wearing.
Wow, I’m with Lenore, this was so well written, Leonore. I found myself nodding right along with everything you said, the struggles, the willingness to just let go…but not let go so much that you can’t get it back and stay grounded and productive.
I loved how the word inspiration meant ‘immediate influence of God or gods’ and ‘breathing’. To me, whenever I get a sudden inspiration, it seems straight out of the blue–I like to think it’s divine intervention in some ways, maybe my inner soul making that sudden pure connection with an idea that didn’t come from me. Tapping into that universal knowledge and power. I can’t explain it but I know it when I feel it. It takes over and I basically just have to shut up, listen and let it guide me where it wants to take me. But like you said, it involves a delicate balance of both our left and right brains to capture that inspiration and make use out of it at the same time.
How do I get inspiration? I go outside. I go for a walk. Or I just sit and breathe, meditate. Or even sometimes stuff hits me when I’m in the shower (which, really is a relaxing state of meditation in a way!)
Excellent post. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Thank you Darla! What makes blogging so great is that it makes writing so much less solitary. It’s always nice to know that other people feel the same way at times and it’s not just me being neurotic (heh…instead, it’s all of us being neurotic together!)
I read an article once…I’ll see if I can find it…about how our brains know when we’re about to have a flash of insprition about 8 seconds before we are consciously aware of the flash, and we really do have more flashes or breakthroughs if we are engaged in something other than the task we are trying to figure out, or even just letting our minds wander.
I like going out for a walk, too. I also find that I get some of my best ideas while I’m driving. I’m going to have to keep one of those silly personal tape recorders in the car so I can remember the ideas without having to pull off the road! ;)
Whoa, I would love to read that article. Very intriguing!
I actually found it, I’m so excited! (Yes yes, I know…it doesn’t take much ;) )
Here’s a report from the Wall Street Journal:
And, I even found the NPR story I originally heard…in the car of course ;)
This is a topic I think about all the time. Sometimes inspiration comes day after day with little effort and sometimes it seems I don’t have a single original idea. I find inspiration comes most consistently when I’m reading a lot, getting rest, exercising, and constantly looking for new angles and habits for seeing things from a different perspective.
I might also try putting hats on my cats.
I’m similar – ideas come more easily when I’m running more smoothly. The problems is that at the end of a semester, my systems start shutting down one by one until I have my chance to crash after finals. Then I start up again.
Y’know, I have yet to see a picture of Megatron with a hat on. I’m starting to think you’re just teasing me…
Brilliant post, Leo. I linked to it today as I managed to finally write something myself – but nothing so inspiring.
I second Lenore’s comment. My favorite phrase in your post is “My motivation is abstract and slippery.” That is a perfect description!
I hope you have a fantastic holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanks for the link, dearie! And it was so exciting to see your new post and the redesigned site (love it! I still have to go over there and comment…)
That really is the perfect description because it’s just like a fish. I’ve got hold of it one second, and then it’s gone, just like that, flopping around on the deck. You can still see it, remember what it felt like when you had it in your hands, but you can’t quite get hold of it. Quite frustrating!
Hope you had a good holiday, too :)
I am reading this in the morning (not my hour of power either), so I’ll try and get back to you re your question about inspiration, however, I will weigh in on the “five minutes more . . . “, with the following:
(Amanda) to her son (Tom); “Rise and Shine!”
Tom’s response: “I’ll rise but I won’t shine . . . ”
[From Tennessee William’s “Glass Menagerie”]
OOPS, as I just told you, I am not a morning person, and the URL in the aforementioned comment is not correct. If you are interested my blog URL is the following:
One of my favorite plays, and that quote really is just perfect, isn’t it? Thanks for posting it.
I’m going to mosey over to your site and be envious. Maybe I can learn something. It would be fair, not to mention a severe understatement, to say that my thumb isn’t even remotely green. Seriously. I’ve killed cacti.