It’s difficult to keep finding inspiration for things one gets excited about. It might sound counterintuitive, but the more one thinks about it and engages in the things that make one excited, the harder it is to find inspiration. In this post, I would like to discuss what is inspiration, its different sources, where I find my inspiration, and why it can be difficult to find inspiration.
Cambridge dictionary defines inspiration as:
i) someone or something that gives you ideas for doing something
ii) a sudden good idea
There can be a few other things that inspiration might mean, but more often than not, we refer to either of the above meanings when we talk about inspiration. The first meaning itself implies the source of inspiration. Inspiration can come in many different forms:
- Reading a book or something else
- Listening to music or an inspirational speech
- Watching a movie or an inspirational video
- Meeting new people
- Helping other people
These are just some of the ways and there can be many others. We don’t need inspiration just to get a good idea, we also need it to persevere further in the work we indulge ourselves in. If our work inspires us, we wouldn’t need bouts of inspiration often, the work itself would continue to inspire us. But if the work that we do doesn’t inspire us, we seek inspiration in other forms, be it art, helping people out, or anything else. Inspiration then takes a whole new meaning for us, and our lives become irrevocably tied to the sources of inspiration. If we sincerely scout for inspiration and allow it into our lives, we can leave our dreary lives behind and instead pursue a life connected to inspiration so as to keep finding meaning and purpose in our lives.
I find my inspiration in a few different places:
- Listening to good music
- Watching great cinema
- Learning new things in general
Reading great writing has always inspired me like nothing else. Not only do I gain insight and knowledge through reading, but also it helps me cultivate empathy by allowing me to see things from someone else’s perspective. In many cases, those perspectives turn out to be something that I might have never imagined to be possible. It also allows me to broaden my vocabulary. When I learn the meaning of new words, the language flows with more freedom inside my mind, and I am able to imbibe the richness of language even further. When I started out reading, it was difficult for me to find inspiration. But over the year, I developed a fondness to it and eventually fell in love with it.
Writing was a result of my fascination with reading. The more I read, the more passionate I became toward writing. Reading with a fierce passion meant that James Baldwin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Toni Morrison, F. Scott Fitzgerald, José Saramago, Donna Tartt among others became my heroes. The more I read them, the more I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Not only did I devour their books, but also I explored their writing style and the writing process at length. I watched their interviews and noted down the things they said, and thought at length about them later. Many a night, I went to sleep thinking what Baldwin thought of race and why he thought them. Writing came to me organically, and I held on to it for dear life. It became a source of inspiration, and I knew it was here to stay. I made it a point to write more regularly, and it is one of those few occasions that I feel proud of myself for having kept up with it.
Music was there for me at a time when I was utterly depressed and was dealing with my demons. When you are depressed, your thoughts can become your nemesis in that a single thought can lead to a chain of thoughts, the chain getting progressively darker. The more you think, the darker it gets. If you existence is tied to what you think, your existence assumes a darker hue day in and day out. In times like those, you cling to things that somehow stem the flow of thoughts inside your head. Music allowed me to do that by punctuating my days, by allowing me to not think, by telling me that not thinking was okay, by telling me that my existence wasn’t irrevocably tied to what I was thinking. Music became my companion, my go-to, and sustenance for my soul. When it felt like it couldn’t get any darker, I turned to music and found a kind of refuge like none other. It inspired me back then, and continues to inspire me to this day.
I started watching cinema when I was in undergrad. Back then I devoured all the great American films and shows, and my thinking was parochial in that my understanding of cinema was limited just to American content. My first foray into world cinema came in the final year at undergrad when I watched Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood for Love”. That film told me that there was much more in the way of technique and nuance that I was missing out on. More importantly, those techniques didn’t get in the way of making a film more beautiful, they only made the cinematic experience much more divine. In cinema, I found a friend which acted as a window into other cultures, a whole array of experiences that I wasn’t cognizant of, and helped me make better sense of things. All of that allowed me to become a better human being. It’s no wonder then that I have seen a lot of German Expressionist films, French new wave cinema, revolutionary Bengali cinema from India among other film movements in the interim years. Cinema continues to provide a lot of inspiration to me.
Like most other humans, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to learning new things. Almost each time, it involves me stepping out of my comfort zone. It is often told that growth begins outside our comfort zone. Through varied experiences, I have realized that viscerally and now I strongly believe in that. Whether it be at work or outside of work, if something is difficult, I try to approach it with an open mind. More often than not, I suck at it and am miserable in the starting phase but I adapt to it soon and it doesn’t intimidate me any more. At the end of that difficult something, I feel grateful to have tried it and thus having grown in the process. The prospect of learning new things provides me inspiration, even though assuming new responsibilities still makes me uncomfortable. I hope to work on this in the time to come.
In a capitalistic society like ours, our work defines us. If our work doesn’t satisfy us, we seek inspiration in other avenues. The inspiration that we find can many a time be short-lived. An obvious reason for that is that our livelihood isn’t directly to that inspiration. We find inspiration to feel little less shitty about things. In the process, we hope to find some meaning in the work that we do. If inspiration in itself makes us feel better without providing us the meaning that we seek in work, we can eventually stop finding inspiration since that isn’t translating into something tangible. During those times, I think it’s important to remember that both those lives can be different — our professional life and the life in which we seek inspiration. Some overlap occasionally is okay between the two, but we should try and keep the two separate if our work doesn’t satisfy us. We should also try and continue to work hard on the things that inspire us, so that in time, they can begin to define us. That needs a lot of work, but I think with persistence and hard work, it is possible.
Inspiration can help us accomplish various things in life by motivating us, by telling us that the things we do, don’t have to define us. If we allow inspiration to assume a life of its own, it can work wonders. Our existence in that case is directly linked to the things that give us inspiration. When our sustenance is directly linked to inspiration, it is reflected in our existence. We grow as a person, and help people around us grow as well. Few things are better.
I hope you find the inspiration and the resulting joy that you are looking for.