What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
I take deep interest in the widely accepted idea that someone outside of ourselves can be a source of inspiration.
Though the root of the word points toward an automatic self-generated process — breathing inward, or inhaling — I still often look to be inspired by someone or something outside of myself.
How about you?
Have you long searched outside of your own self for access to that creative mojo or felt around in that cosmic backpack for your serving of Inspired Living?
That was certainly my story.
As the oldest child, as the “outspoken one,” and later as a wife, mother, and business owner, I have always felt it my duty to seek and dole out inspiration for myself and to those who look to me to provide it.
I assumed that inspiration would always work through me, but not with me being its point of origin.
If I read the right books, attracted the perfect mentor, attained the appropriate degrees, or took the best webinar, only then could I get the big, fat inspiration that would turn all my delicious potential energy into a fully charged, kinetic flow.
I now recognize that to be more about fear than inspiration.
I now recognize that my constant searches for the best sources of inspiration got in the way of my ability to cultivate and trust my own inner voice.
What are we seeking from Inspiration anyway? Permission to act on something, right?
I don’t seek to be inspired simply to have the experience, and I’m willing to bet you and I are alike in that way.
When I troll my favorite websites, hone in on a particularly moving song, or revisit my favorite books, it is with the intent to support or unearth something actionable inside myself.
I realized though that that whatever I was seeking had to be something I already had, otherwise, I could not recognize it in anyone else. It wouldn’t be a language that I spoke. Every time I got riled up by an “other,” the flow only took me so far.
I got tired of feeling like an outsider in my own creative process, so I decided to pay more attention to whatever it was inside of me that responded so well to the things I deemed inspirational.
Noun. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative: “flashes of inspiration”
There is immeasurable value in listening to the impassioned voice of a brilliant TEDxTalk speaker, or the eloquence and remarkable detail with which your grandmother tells old stories of triumph over tragedy in her thick accent — agreed.
But for me, it was not until I started to consider inspiration as a force that can only be born inside me, then motivated by inspiration born inside someone else, that I started to consistently realize opportunities to create long-term, positive changes in my life.
2 Simple Things I Do to Access INspiration
1. I start my day with me.
I dismissed the practice of reaching for my phone to check e-mails or even reaching for my stack of books to read my favorite Audre Lorde quotes, or Hiro Boga poems, or anything uttered from the mouth of Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie.
Instead, I listen inward, paying attention to the thoughts that are available for observation, and stating what and how I wanted to experience my day.
2. I recognize that there are no key-holders.
Maya Angelou can bring me to tears with the flick of her pen or the warmth of her smile, but she cannot create positive, permanent change in my life. I must do that.
And when I decide to commit to that practice, then she, her words, and her smile will have a bucket to drop in their gems.
Each of us hold our own keys, and my suspicion is that the keys are merely pacifiers for us to hold onto until we see that there is no doorway, because we are the building we seek to enter.
Audre, Hiro, Chimamanda, Maya, and my host of other in-my-mind mentors are members of my Motivation Nation. They are conscious stops that I make to sip water, get smiles, and juice nutrients as I walk onward. They are water breaks on my life journey, and I welcome them and their Light.
But if I mistake them for my legs and stop running, they will not and cannot carry me. I must move my legs. I must decide to continue.
I must breathe deeper, step farther, and decide again and again to move where my own Light leads me.
As you gather the gems that feed you today, remember to differentiate between your Source and your resources. Who and what you serve is your Source. Who and what motivates you to keep going is serving as a resource.
Be the Source you seek and you can then move forward with confidence, without fear of disappointment, failure, or doubt.
Motivation can come from anywhere, but inspiration is always an inside job.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from a book that has birthed major inspiration for me. It is my own book, and this excerpt was inspired by my own inner dialogue with my Old Woman Self.
You have it backwards, woman. Inspiration is the after party, not the catalyst.
In fact, it is time for you to recognize that the word itself misrepresents the truth.
The idea of inspiration is worse than a lie; it is the liar.
It is the liar who has convinced you that busying yourself with the words and ideas of the greats is enough to fulfill you. It is the liar who has you labeling someone as a source of inspiration, instead of what they truly are.
Her art and his gifts are evidence of their access to their own divine sources. You must be willing to see it as such, or you will never express the only source of actual inspiration you have, the one that is already and only within you.
You can appreciate the art of others without needing to rely on it to access your own. Their works are not mirrors, nor are they breadcrumbs that lead you toward You. That is impossible, and any efforts to duplicate, follow in the footsteps of, or mirror their work is an egregious injustice upon your own gifts.
Inspiration is often mistaken for example.
There are no examples of my gifts, because I am an original. You are an original as well. We can be inspired, deeply even, but if you and I look to inspiration to gain access to ourselves, we have already lost the point of it.
If you are creating, then create. Shut out the inspiration; leave it for the after party. Churn out what is within you; explore it; mold it; play with it.
Then, when you have created it from the inside out, you can celebrate with gratitude to the examples of other people’s willingness to churn out their own art as well.
Akilah S. Richards is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She is a six-time author, digital content writer, and lifestyle coach who writes passionately about self-expression, womanhood, modern feminism, location independence and the unschooling lifestyle. Connect with Akilah on Instagram, Tumblr, or her #radicalselfie e-home, radicalselfie.com. Read her articles.
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