Chuck Close, asked where he got his inspiration for all his artwork, notoriously made the bold statement, “Inspiration is for amateurs.”
It’s become a favorite mantra of mine. Working in the creative industry, it’s something I believe in deeply. Marketing professionals are paid to bring it creatively every single day, whether they’re feeling inspired or totally crappy. We all have bad days. We have to come to work and crank out something quality anyway. And time after time, we do.
So forget inspiration. Creative professionals don’t need it, and neither do you. Here are my five favorite ways to stop waiting for inspiration and get right down to it.
1. Get something on the page. Anything.
Many a writer has felt the Fear of the Blank Page. So don’t deal with a blank page. Just get out whatever you’ve got for now, whether it’s the last line, a key part of the middle, a fantastic quote. I’ve even typed out my inner monologue just to get my fingers moving—“So what’s the point of this stupid thing anyway? I want to talk about how you don’t need inspiration to do good work.” Once you get started, it’s surprising how quickly it transitions into real content.
2. Execute an emergency flash brainstorm session.
Set a timer for five minutes. Ready? Okay, go! Consider the project or problem in front of you and don’t stop writing down ideas for it until the timer dings. No judgment, no editor, just write down every single one. When you’re done, you’ll have a nice long list of options in front of you. Review it, pick out your favorites, and move on forward.
3. Write a step-by-step to-do list.
Break your task into its units. Got an article due on Friday? Okay. 1) Research the topic. 2) Identify experts in the field. 3) Get interviews. 4) Outline. 5) Write article. 6) Proof draft. So you don’t really need to be inspired right now. You just need to start collecting information on the topic. Easy enough right? I’ve coaxed myself through countless projects using this method.
4. Race the clock.
I sometimes get a feeling of dread associated with projects I’m not inspired by. Sometimes they’re just so boring. So fine, I tell myself, I will just get it done as fast as I can and then it’ll be over, and I can get back to more fun things. I promise myself I’ll get it done in the next two hours (or a piece of it, if it’s a larger project). That’s enough motivation for me to start going through the motions, knowing that at least it will be over soon. And nine times out of 10, 30 minutes in, the dread has melted away and I feel invested in the project. Even better, I almost always also manage to complete the task in the time allotted, which is pretty satisfying.
5. Give your mind a break.
Sometimes the brain just needs a little space, some time with the pressure off. Focus on something else for a little bit and come back to it. You may come up with a new idea for the project once you step back. At the least you’ll get some creative juices pumping so you go into it with some momentum.