Is inspiration your biggest excuse?


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Do you have a memoir inside of you?

Do you have a novel in you? Nearly every person I’ve asked gives me an answer that begins with, “Yes, but…” So many excuses follow – time, kids, cramped hands, too old of a computer – some are downright silly – yet the one that really saddens me is the person who was not inspired to get started.

Inspiration gets a bad rap. Anyone who has ever succeeded says that they were inspired to do so, yet anyone who has ever truly failed blames it for their inaction. Both of these ideals are wrong. Inspiration is a wonderful thing, when it occurs – but it is also the most over-used excuse to procrastinate and eventually give up.

This is silly, because inspiration is not what you need to get going. Inspiration is what you use to keep going after you’ve already started. Perhaps it’s the starting that trips them up?

Back to that novel you’ve been meaning to write. Every November, I participate in a program called “National Novel Writing Month” – or NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Yet, thousands do it. The idea isn’t to write the great American novel as much as it is to just WRITE. Many begin with absolutely no idea what they are going to write about. The website actually has forums devoted to coming up with an idea. Still, we are encouraged to write anyway. Write anything – just start writing, already!

A fabulous thing happens as you see the words flow – you get inspired to write more. The more you write, the more you are inspired – and pretty soon, you actually do end up with a decent story. Some have gone on to edit and publish their stories. Many of us return for the challenge year after year. We are inspired through our action.

The fact is that inspiration comes only AFTER action. You might have an idea, which you get tangled up with inspiration, but the true inspiration – the drive to follow through and finish that dream – only comes after you begin.

If we all stood around waiting for inspiration, we’d never invent anything, build anything, or fix anything. Really, we’d never even get dressed, eat breakfast, do the dishes, or make it to work. Who is inspired to face a Monday? Motivation cannot come out of inaction. If you think you must be inspired in order to be motivated in order to get started, you’ve got your success cycle all mixed up.

I see the cycle more like this:

Dream – Action – Inspiration – Failure – Reassess – Failure – Reassess – Lather, rinse, repeat (as many times as needed) – Success – New Dream (See the Dream-to-Success graphic)

You see? Inspiration comes more towards the middle. To be inspired is a wonderful thing – but don’t use it as an excuse to not get started on any dream you desire, even that best-selling novel.

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