Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. – Pablo Picasso
What does that mean?
This quote reminds me of opportunity, both lost and found. Opportunity or inspiration comes on its own schedule, not yours.
Have you ever had a great idea, but you were on the couch, watching your favorite show or sports team? You think to yourself “I’ll write that down in the next commercial break” and then forgot all about it?
Whether it was an idea to make your first million dollars, or remembering what you were going to do, if you aren’t ready, it will be gone in a heartbeat.
However, if you are busy doing what you do, and inspiration stops by, you are ready to take note and begin to make use of it immediately.
Why is being ready important?
If you aren’t ready, inspiration can come and go, and you might not even notice. The quote is by a famous artist of the cubist style, and is meant to let others know that inspiration does exist, but that the work ethic is just as important as the inspiration.
The logic is that if you are not ready, with your tools in your hands, and inspiration visits you, what will you do? How does one capture inspiration? By doing the work which you do. If you are not ready, if you are down a the cafe talking with your friends, you will not notice it as it passes you by.
If you are at your place of work, in this case at your easel with paints in hand, you are far more likely to be able to take advantage of the gift of inspiration as it moves past you. Being ready is a fundamental part of taking advantage of inspiration, regardless of its source.
In short, inspiration has a shelf life. If you aren’t ready to act on it, the inspiration will only stick around for so long, then it just fades to mist. It will slip through your fingers. It will vanish from your mind, leaving only an ache, where you know a great idea used to be, but is no more.
Where can I apply this in my life?
We all do different things throughout the day, and through the week. What do you do which relies on inspiration? Where does it help you with your work? What would you do without it? What do you do to try to capture it? How successful have you been at capturing it, when you weren’t found at work?
Have you ever had a bit of inspiration, but had to try to capture it because you weren’t at work? Recently, I was watching TV and a commercial reminded me of something, and I spent a little time playing with it, but was unable to capture anything besides the basic premise. It’s now an empty shell, the inspiration is gone.
Sometimes you can capture some of the inspiration. I’ve seen artists suddenly flip to another page and make a quick sketch. When asked what happened, they have replied that they had an idea for a painting, but had no paint. They did what they could to capture inspiration with the tools they had at hand.
Obviously, it’s best to be primed and ready to go when inspiration strikes. But it would be comically funny to stand there, all prepared and simply state “I’m at work, inspiration. Come and get me, I’m waiting!” If you saw that in your head, you probably heard a laughter with it, as the studio audience guffawed.
So what do you do to capture inspiration? That’s why so many creative people carry notebooks, sketch pads, or whatever is appropriate for their craft. What would you do if you were visited by inspiration? How would you keep it around long enough to get back to where you could work on it?
There were some ideas listed earlier in this section, but in the era of smart phones and tablets, can you sketch something in a drawing program or app? Do you have a text editor you could use to grab an idea? Do you have a mind-map program or app to help you do a quick brainstorm? What else could you use?
Obviously, there are plenty of ways to try to capture that bit of inspiration (and I emphasize try, we’ve all had a great idea escape despite our best attempts to keep it captive), but the best way is to be working when it hits you. There is a reason song-writers write songs for the waste basket.
Yes, literally. They write songs just to throw them out. Getting good at anything takes repetition. Lots of repetition. Practice and practice and practice. And then, in the midst of practice, inspiration strikes, and you end up with a gem.
That’s how you get inspiration to find you working. You keep working at your craft until it finds you. You work and work and work. That’s why they keep finding paintings hiding under other paintings. Cover up your last attempt and practice again.
What will you do while you wait for inspiration to find you? Will you sit on the couch and watch TV, or will you practice a little, and see if you just can’t get inspiration to stop by for a brief visit?