Do you need inspiration or motivation?

Steve Gordon, Jr.There is a notion—one that the “creative class” has done a fair job of perpetuating—that we (creatives) are somehow touched, tapped and deemed special in the realm of clever thought and artistic endeavors.

But possessing a “gift”—special as it may be—has a tendency to, at times. breed entitlement and complacency.

Why do I say this? The age-old notion that “nothing worth having comes easy” rings quite true. Rarely do we place real value on something that did not come by way of some sort of hard work. Understandably, that sounds like a quip from every parent on the planet, but in this case it holds water.

Directly to the point; what level of complacency would you admit to? Are you entitled or lazy when it comes to your craft, your skill-set, your professional development—and dare we ask—even your life as a so-called “creative” person?

More than any sector of society, we creative types tend to cite some sort of “block” when we are having trouble activating our gift. We then look for “inspiration” to help us break the blockage seemingly damming up our artistic flow.

This is a bit of a problem. Calling on the “muse” or waiting for something external to fill us with the energy to create lessens the responsibility on self. In marches the entitlement. It literally frees us from the responsibility of being caretakers of our skill and creative abilities.

What if it’s not inspiration that we need? I theorize that it is a question of motivation, not inspiration. If indeed we are given a natural inclination to be so creative, a “block” could not possibly hamper our endeavors. We are the inspiration for the world outside of us, for those less inclined to be so creative. We simply need to find the motivation to continue our exploration into how we might share our view of the world with others.

The truth is: complacency and laziness is far easier than the alternative. We cop-out in small ways so many times a day that we don’t even bother to keep track. For example, I dropped a few crumbs on my kitchen floor and, sadly, had to guilt myself into picking them up and not just kicking them to the floorboard. I was half a second from copping-out on something as simple and immediate as picking up something I had just dropped.

How often have we done this in our careers, but then wrongfully placed the blame or responsibility on something or someone else? How often have we cut a corner here or there, or not done our due diligence in exhausting all possibilities? How often have we copped out in the smallest, almost unnoticeable ways in our chosen crafts and careers? We hemorrhage the opportunity to keep ourselves going all the time, yet we quickly and very often cite “lack of inspiration.”

I ask you: Are we simply being lazy?

BTW: Steve Gordon, Jr, the author of “100 Habits of Successful Freelance Designers,” will be ranting about this in his session, What it Takes to Be A 24/7 Creative” on June 23 at the Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago.

9 thoughts on “Do you need inspiration or motivation?

  1. Deidre

    Wow, Steve. This is seriously thought-provoking. I love this post, and kudos to you for saying it! I couldn’t agree more. There is a very fine line between “lacking creative inspiration” and “just being lazy,” at least for me. And next time I drop crumbs, I’m going to have to pick them up. My kitchen floor can expect to be a lot cleaner because of you. Thanks!

  2. Steve G.

    Thanks for weighing in, Deidre. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read. I know it’s not a warm-fuzzy thought and most likely raises the ire in most far before it would endear them to the idea, but I’m speaking firstly—and always—from experience. I have to slap myself upside the head like my mom would do and say, “come on now, you’re dropping the ball. You’re being lazy, Steve.” I gave the crumb example as a perfect display of that tendency.

    In any event. Thank you for reading, and get a Swivel Sweeper (as seen on TV) they work for quick pick-ups ;-).

  3. Shannon

    I couldn’t agree more. When the ideas flow easily it makes it easy to get started immediately (and also makes non-creative thinkers say “oh you are so creative!). But there are those projects that either nothing comes to mind, or that don’t have such obvious starting points (or are boring, or complicated or ____________ fill in the blank) and that is when I tend to procrastinate. Yes, that is the word, procrastinate. Just like I do when it comes to the laundry. It’s just not a fun job, and I don’t want to do it.
    Thanks for the kick in the pants Steve! I have one of those projects lurking even now, and here I sit responding to blogs…. 🙂

    1. Bruce Colthart (@bccreative)

      Shannon, I feel your pain regarding getting started, especially when the project is boring, or inane, or somehow unclear with its goals. I have clients who throw projects at me that, as part of my overall helpful service approach, I dutifully take on. The procrastination and paralysis can be overwhelming! In some of those cases, I seem to need to hit rock bottom first – all groggy, apathetic and unenthused – before I can see them in a fresh, different light and climb out of the hole.

      How do you overcome such times?

  4. Steve G.

    Shannon, you are very right; “procrastination” is one of those bi-products of having “the gift” of abundant creativity. We tend to very pompously put things off at times, because we assume that we can dumb-it-down with a *yawwwwwn* and still bless the world with something they couldn’t pull off. Guilty as charged! Perhaps that’s true, but who are we hurting long-term? Only ourselves and the way our profession is viewed. That why everyone & their uncle (who works at Apple) think they can be a designer! haha.

    Now get of this blog and get to work… my goodness! 😉

  5. Bruce Colthart (@bccreative)

    Steve, I love that you’ve made a clear distinction between “inspiration” and “motivation.” I fall squarely into the camp that needs more of the latter than the former. For a designer like me, it’s all too easy to find the hollow-caloried, eye candy of pseudo-inspiration blogged and posted daily – “25 Mind-Blowing Crayon Drawings” or “100 Awesome RSS buttons” but very little in the way of “How to get your lazy ass out of your chair and start using the skills you’ve been blessed with to uniquely and competently solve your clients’ pressing problems.” It’s part of why I no longer subscribe to my industry’s best magazines that I’ve loved for decades (particularly Communication Arts). I don’t need an external source of magic to get going. I need ideas and discussion, to unlock the energy and focus that’s within.

  6. Eva M.

    Thanks for speaking the truth we don’t always want to hear!
    I think those “blocks” can also be an important clue in balancing your work and personal life. If you just can’t get motivated on a project, perhaps a look into other events in your life is in order. If you can resolve the “regular life” problem that is bothering you, it can be easier to move on with creative pursuits.

    1. Steve G.

      Thank you for participating and dropping a comment, Eva. The one thing I hope everyone realizes is that this is not preachy… this is stuff I have to say to myself regularly. I have to play by my own rules and suggests too. 😉