The Absolute Idiot’s Guide To Inspiration

The Absolute Idiot’s Guide To Inspiration

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It was 4:37am and I had just woken up with a flash of an idea. “Fuuuuucccckkkkkkkkk yesssssss!!!!”

Inspiration comes at the most inopportune times. That’s just a fact of life. When I was younger I’d get pissed and go back to sleep or keep doing what I was doing.

Who cares if my peaceful slumber was interrupted by a possibly great idea? It’s just an idea, right? Ideas are a dime a dozen. Great ideas are no less common. Ideas don’t count. Action counts. Fuck the idea. Go back to sleep.

Ahh, the perils of my young mind. :)

“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” – Siddhartha Gautama

I remember reading an interview with Eddie Van Halen about 15 years ago and the interviewer asked him about where he gets ideas for songs, what inspires him. He said, highly paraphrased, “Ideas come at all times. I don’t care of I’m shitting, having sex, or taking a shower, if I get inspired I get to work immediately.”

My favorite guitarist, the late Dimebag Darrell, took great steps to harnessing inspiration as well. He kept a guitar in every room in his house, including the bathroom, and had a small recording studio on his tour bus.

Professionals understand that ideas must be allowed to breathe.

Inspiration at inopportune times was no longer a burden for me. These guys broke my pad.

Now when I get a flash of inspiration at 4:37am with my eyes fluttering in that REM way they like to flutter, I wake the neighbors up with a howl of delight.

Harnessing inspiration is important. The more often you kick inspiration to the curb the less often you’ll feel inspired. Stifling inspiration is how an amateur reacts to ideas.

These days I have so many ideas, so much inspiration, so many articles, so much pouring out of me, I almost don’t know what to do with all of it.

It’s for the simple fact that if I just put toothpaste on my toothbrush and am about to insert said toothbrush into my morning-breath mouth and have an idea I will drop the toothbrush and run to the nearest idea-capturing-mechanism and get that idea OUT OF MY HEAD. Run on sentence, yes I did! (That example is exactly how this very article was written.)

With that spectacular foray into elementary level English out of the way let’s break it down.

7 Tips For Harnessing Inspiration

Follow these rules or languish in the deepest, darkest, pits of creative blockage …

Tip #1: When you feel inspired drop whatever you’re doing and get that shit out of you. If you follow this simple tip you will overflow with inspiration every waking and sleeping second in no time.

Tip #2: Keep an idea capturing mechanism on your person at all times. Whether that’s an iPhone, handheld recorder, cell phone, or good ole fashioned note pad, be ready with it. If you’ve never used the audio or note capturing feature of your device do it now so when inspiration strikes you’ll be ready.

Tip #3: When you get a flash of inspiration don’t deny it. Don’t convince yourself it’s a bad idea.

“Sometimes in the middle of the night, I think of something that’s funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen’s too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.” – Mitch Hedberg

As much as I love him, don’t be Mitch Hedberg!

Tip #4: When you feel inspired, also get fired up! Blast loud music, scream out in delight, punch yourself in the face. Get excited! This is a great moment in your life. Embrace it. Cherish it. Revel in it.

Tip #5: Make inspiration a habit. The more you let your inspiration flow freely, the more inspiration will come knocking you out of your baby sleep like a monster in the closet.

Tip #6: Inspiration begets inspiration. Many times when I get an idea and immediately get to work on capturing it, the floodgates open and other ideas come flowing. I love when this happens. There have been times when I’ve written 3 articles that I didn’t even know I had in me in a very short time-frame for the simple fact that I didn’t stifle the initial inspiration.

Tip #7: Hang out with inspiring people and you’ll feed off of them. I’ve been doing lots of interviews and sending out lots of e-mails lately for the relaunch of How To Live Anywhere. Every time I’m done talking with somebody, without fail, I feel an incredible burst of inspiration. Seek out extraordinary people.

Bonus tip: If there is someone in your life who brings you down or stifles your creativity, break ties with them immediately. It doesn’t matter who they are. They’re toxic and they don’t deserve you.

Hit me up with your stories, tips, ideas about inspiration below …

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{ 42 comments }

Ivana Sendecka

Wohooo, I am not alone in this planet, who wake up in the middle of the night when hit by an idea.

On 8th Sept 2008, I had my the most important night of my life (no, no, no guy was involved, LOL) I woke up at 3:30AM and started to write down my thoughts on the big flip-chart paper which I stuck on my room’s door. New me, was born, that night and inspiration which was pouring out of me came all of the sudden. That hit was so strong that I have managed to fill full huge flip-chart paper with my thoughts and then used marker which I was writing with as “imaginary microphone” and I was giving speech to my imaginary audience;-)

Are you still reading or calling mental hospital to fetch me?;-)

but seriously, since then I have huge paper covering wall of my room and marker right next to my bed, so I can wake up anytime I am “hit” ;-)

When I am outdoors, I always carrying my journal with me, so in case of inspiration emergency I can capture it.

But as you have said in the beginning, Karol:
The most important part after all this exciting aha moments is execution and shipping it to the world! ;-)

Happy shipping folks and I am grateful for your super cool post Karol.

cheers from Slovakia,

i.

Karol

Thank you, that’s an awesome idea Ivana. I know some people who paint their walls with dry erase marker paint. It’s the same idea though. When inspiration strikes you can write stuff down ANYWHERE. :)

Did you end up giving your speech to a non-imaginary audience or was it used for something else?

Ivana Sendecka

Yeah, I did;-) that is the best part about it;-)

after 14 months since my epiphany, I shipped 2 days conference and my first speech ever. in case you have spare 15 minutes here it is:
part ONE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvvPiaGrDgM&feature=player_embedded
part TWO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPirgwpQK6A&feature=related
which is still bringing tears into my eyes..

and i am shipping and shipping since;-)

Karol

Thanks for sharing, awesome story Ivana!

75
Henri Junttila

Ah Dimebag. Too bad he had to go so soon.

I’ve hit a few inspiration funks lately, but using the inspiration you get has definitely helped me. If I’m about to go to sleep and inspiration strikes, I run to the computer.

My girlfriend finds it really annoying when I do this while we’re watching a movie or something else, but what can you do when duty calls, right? ;)

Karol

I hear you Henri. Many girls are not fans of guys who have flashes of inspiration and have to stop everything and get it out. :)

So you’re a metal fan I take it? Or just Pantera?

Henri Junttila

I used to be a huge metal fan in my late teens, then I had my reggae period, then classical, then some guitar virtuosos like Gilbert, Malmsteen and so on. Now I basically enjoy everything that sounds awesome.

Although I haven’t been listening to music that much because I’m constantly writing, and I can’t write when I listen to stuff with lyrics!

Shannon

Soooo….what was your idea at 4:37 a.m.?

Karol

It’s a project that I plan to show to the world in July. :)

Shannon

Oh, and I met Vinnie Paul briefly once. My friend attended Dimebag’s funeral (she was friends with him).

I wish I’d seen Mitch live before he died. One of my biggest comedy nerd regrets.

Karol

Nice! He does live in the Dallas area.

I could’ve met Dime a few times, but I was too shy in high school to go up to him. He always hung out with fans by the tour bus outside of shows. I would just watch. haha. I don’t regret it though. It was what it was.

As for Mitch, definitely would’ve been awesome to see him live. Oh well. I’m a bit of a comedy nerd as well. I bought George Carlin’s Classic Gold when I was in 6th grade. Also bought Denis Leary’s No Cure For Cancer that same year. They never got old for me. Although after hearing Bill Hicks (I was late to the game) I feel like the “rumors” that Denis stole Bill’s routine are true.

Shannon

Are you following Denis on Twitter? He just joined. I like his wife, Ann, even better.

Karol

No, bummed out on him. My youth was filled with Denis Leary love, but when I started hearing the exact same routines from Bill Hicks there was no reason to listen to Leary. And I was a Denis Leary fanboy like none other. To the point that I even owned the Two If By Sea VHS. (romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock from ’96!) haha

Eugene

Inspiration and creativity are like muscles. You have to work at them to keep them in top shape and able to produce. I think that’s why the most creative people are always creating. It’s a cycle that just keeps perpetuating itself.

Karol

You are so right on Eugene! I don’t even have anything more to add. Thanks for commenting. :)

Vivien

Hey Karol, thank you for posting this. Just why “Absolute Idiot” ?
It happens to me rather often. Ideas in the middle of the night I mean. I sometimes even have the will to wake up, grab a pen and write it. Often, though, it turns out that it isn’t a so good idea (when I read it in the morning); I guess it worths to be written anyway. =)
I used to have a ‘idea box’ where I put all the sheets of paper. I modernized the system since and I use the computer…

Karol

To be completely honest that was my temp title (I do that a lot, just a placeholder) and then didn’t change it. It simply means it’s an easy to follow guide. Like “The Idiot’s Guide To” book series.

I agree, not every idea is a good idea. The point is to let them flow even if they suck.

Chris McDade

Great post Karol and loving the comedy references! Mitch was fantastic, though without knowing his bit about having to convince himself the pen is too far away I’d worry people thought that was an actual quote.

Karol

Thanks Chris!

Andy Hawkins

Another timely piece my friend, alas I could have done with it 3 days ago but the lesson has been learned (the hard way) and this just reinforces it.

I write poetry, I have no idea where the inspirations come from but on a good day I can knock out 10 pieces or more, other days nada, nothing, zip.

You would think that ebb and flow alone would be enough of an incentive for me to act upon inspiration when it arrives but no. Three days ago as I was just drifting off to sleep I had a slew of great ideas and poems started floating around my head that had almost written themselves.

I should have turned the light on, hit the netbook and written them up before emailing them off to Evernote for safe keeping but alas, I figured they would still be in my head in the morning. Of course they weren’t.

So instead of publishing half a dozen new pieces the following morning I sulked at a lost opportunity and vowed never to make the same mistake again.

Thanks for reinforcing that message.

Karol

Hey Andy,

Man, thanks for sharing. If I would’ve known that was going to happen I’d have written the article last week. :)

I guess you just have to retroactively convince yourself that the poems you missed out on weren’t good. ;)

Karol

poch

For the first time, I tried to link your great post to Facebook by Yahoo
but FB wasn’t there so I tried it on your site and there was the FB Like button.
I used it.

Karol

Nice! Thank you for doing that Poch! :)

paurullan

Thanks dude.
I put the recorder as a main app on my phone :D

Erin S.

So true. The more you listen for the inspiration, and attempt to capture it, the more you get.

I went through a phase in song writing that in the morning as soon as hot water in the shower hit my head, I would hear these great melodies. Drip..Drip..Drip to the piano or to a guitar to try to capture them.

Thanks for reminding us the inspiration isn’t always in a set or forced situation.

Karol

Thanks Erin. The shower is my biggest inspiration kick-starter as well. :) I hear that from a lot of people. I wonder why that is.

Leszek Cyfer

I think it’s the warmth – you relax (and your body is relaxed already after sleeping) – and you kick into a daydream state where all inspirations lurk.

Trent

Great post Karol, and very timely for me too. Keep on rockin’ on…

Karol

Thanks Trent! It’s good to know this is timely. :)

Angela

As always…a great read. I’m off to sleep…per chance to be woken up by inspiration in the wee hours :-)

Karol

Thanks Angela! Keep a notebook by your side. :)

Karen

Ahh, inspiration. When will you come? Sometimes I wait and wait and wait and nothing happens. Other times, like you, it hits in the middle of the night and you get goosebumps thinking how great your next idea will be. If only if it was an on-demand thing.

You’ve given some great tips and I’m a firm believer in having a pad of paper and a pen beside the bed for when I get inspired. All ideas get recorded and then evaluated during the harsh daylight. Sometimes, the really good ones, even make it to my site :-)

Karen

Karol

Thanks for coming by Karen!

I feel like at this point it is an on-demand thing for me. Obviously there are times when I don’t really feel inspired, but when it’s time to work, it usually comes to me. This is along the lines of what Steven Pressfield talks about in The War of Art: going pro. When we go pro everything changes. It’s not a question of “I wonder when I’ll feel inspired” it’s “well, I’m working right now, so I’m going to be inspired!”

Leszek Cyfer

When you had to find an inspiration and you did, it starts a pattern. And pattern gets stronger with repetition. That’s why a pro seems to have it easier – he worked on it repeatedly and it became a pattern.

Andrew

An inspiration story:

a few years ago, i was taking a dump (don’t all great stories start that way?)… anyway, i was cleaning out my pockets as well, and found a copy of a receipt for a box of fruit (oranges, i think). the first line to a song came to me, (“oranges, lemons, too sweet & too sour/hotels on highways, you pay by the hour…”)and i scratched it down on the receipt– that was the beginning of the first song I had written in probably 2 or 3 years, and it was the opening of a floodgate to probably 50 more in the next year and a half.

i have written poem ideas on pants legs and blog ideas on backs of envelopes while driving down the highway. when it hits, it hits.

thanks for the continued inspiration.

Karol

Wow! Weird. haha

Thanks for adding your thoughts Andrew!

Juha Karjalainen

Thanks about this Karol! :)

I agree with you a lot in these things. One funny thing is that why the heck the inspirations hit always when you are doing or you should be doing something else? (I hope that would be just a mind set. and not everybody does have the same problem.) It would be lovely to get into action right away no matter what you where doing, but for example in my case I just write stuff down – or try to remember it. It helps, but inspiration and motivation are often already gone when you look at the notes later…and just have to wait right mood to get inspired again about that particular thing. And good people always help in that, you just need to think about opening your mouth about any idea and they get inspired right away and inspire you also :)

Karol

Hi Juha, thanks for stopping by. I think the reason ideas and inspiration hit when you’re doing something else is because they come from the subconscious mind. And yes, inspiring people will also inspire you. :)

Pawe?

Daaaamn, nice article. :) I’d say “awesome” but I don’t like this word – too american for me. ;)

Speaking of Tip #2: I’ve been thinking for some time about buying some kind of super duper mobile phone, which would not only enable me to register ideas but also to work on them. At last some good excuse to buy a new toy. :D

Pawel

Oops, problems with encoding. The name should be “Pawel” with polish accented “l”. ;)

Karol

yeah, as for mobile phone, it seems most of them can do this type of thing nowadays…I’m a fan of the iPod Touch and a notepad :)

girl

this is all very true.
I was an ideas machine for as long as i began to think (and that was at the age of 2!) but later when i grew up i almost became suicidal and poisonous staying with people and circumstances that discouraged everything i did or thought! And after survivng few years like that i decided to cut all ties with such lots and GOD KNOWS HOW HAPPY I HAVE BECOME!! :-)

I urge all of u to quit any negativivty in your life and find poeple ur comfortable with . And thats EXTRAORDINARY! :)

God bless u all.

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