Inspiration is Fickle. Do The Work Instead.

Rely on inspiration for creative work at your own peril.

In this case, inspiration means one or more of the following:

  • The Idea
  • The Spark
  • The Vision
  • The Muse

Inspiration, if it comes, will come in fits and starts and rarely completely. Instead of waiting for it do the following foundational and structural work instead: clean the shop, organize your desk, purchase supplies, sharpen the pencil or the saw, set up your website, turn off your phone.

Prepare and show up.

And then?

What if inspiration doesn’t arrive whipping you into a creative frenzy and drawing brilliance from a deepness within that shocks with raw powerful realness and Truth?

Then you do what you should have been doing all along: you practice. Your art–your craft–requires practice. In plucking out a scale your fingers might wander. In sawing a dovetail you might wonder about trying a different angle. In copying a sentence you might tweak the syntax. Produce something and you’ll find that somewhere in there an iota of inspiration snuck in.

Others say it better

Matt, who is wise, refered to the above as perspiration. To get the result you must show up and do the work. This is extremely difficult. Secreting time and mustering energy is nothing to be trifled with. And in many stages of life will be impossible. Fight for it though! It’s necessary.

Vinh Khoi says it like this:

“I think you’ve just got to do it consistently, repeatedly, and you’ve got to be undeterred by the time it requires and the inconvenience in your life that it generates. But mostly you have to do it in a way that continually stirs your personal passion.”

Do the thing to do the thing

6 months ago I did not have a 6 month old podcast. Not every minute of it is good. In fact, most are mediocre although listenable and sometimes there’s a spark of there that could be called inspired.

3 years ago I did not have a blog that was 3 years old. Not every sentence on it is good. In fact, most are mediocre although readable and sometimes there’s a spark there that could be called inspired.


Show up, do the work, practice, and produce. Enjoy the flashes of inspiration although never rely on them.

Repeat and repeat.

This post started as a tootstorm. That Tootstorm was inspired by Austin Kleon who is one of the clearest thinkers about creativity out there.