Both as a writer and as a stand-up comedian, the question I get asked most often is definitely, “Where do you get your ideas from?”
That question always gives me pause, because I never quite know how to answer it in a fully satisfying way. The simple truth is I get my ideas from anywhere, and no where. My ideas are born of 31, almost 32, years of human experience. My ideas come from observing my friends and family, from thinking about how life should be in contrast to how it is, to asking myself ‘what if…?”, or simply because something makes me chuckle.
But all of that is just a beginning, because the cold, hard truth of the matter is that inspiration isn’t as simple as a spark. Not really. Not the good inspiration, anyway. Not inspiration that lasts long enough to inspire others.
Of course, any artist has moments of clarity. Moments when the Muse just seems to flow out of your pencil or paint brush or even your computer screen, and for that brief moment in time you are one with your art. It’s almost as if it’s being dictated to you and you are just a humble scribe, etching the image of the very face of God in some small way.
It’s amazing, isn’t it?
But, that’s not inspiration.
That’s a jumping-off point, and if that brief, fleeting moment of ecstasy is all you have to motivate you to create, to write, to dance, or to breathe, you will not get too far in the creative process. That is the high, but not the drug itself.
Inspiration is work.
Inspiration takes time and effort, especially when it comes to writing.
Real inspiration comes from hours of staring at the same sentence for hours on end, fretting over where to place that comma or period. It comes from debating what a character would do with a valued friend, passionately defending your view while listening to theirs. It comes from closing your eyes and forcing yourself to see something the way a character would see it, whether or not you happen to agree with it.
Real inspiration comes on the fifth or sixth draft, when suddenly you see everything you’ve worked on for months in a whole new light. A light that makes it all suddenly click somewhere in the back of your brain.
But, that click wasn’t handed to you on a silver platter.
You earned that click.
You earned it by battling through the blank page and the mocking, blinking cursor. Your earned it by refusing to back down when you couldn’t find the right word. You earned it by forgoing sleep, by turning off the TV and Internet so you can hear your own thoughts above the din.
You earned it, and that’s where the inspiration comes from.