My electrons are party poopers.
February 23, 2011 7:21 PM   Subscribe

How do you stay with and build upon those "moments of realization/inspiration?"

I usually find it difficult to maintain and elevated state of excitement over new ideas or new ways I want to live my life that I KNOW will benefit me.

For example, I can have a meeting about a project and be super charged up about it, but then the next day I struggle to work on that same project. In addition I find that personal revelations are also difficult to stay jazzed about long enough to affect change. I realize this is a common human experience, but I know there are ways people manage it and I want to know what they are. I want to be able to capture that feeling and make it last or use it to rekindle my motivation when necessary. I just can't figure out whether it's something I need to do regularly or if there's some way to remind myself or something completely different that would also work.

I am open to all suggestions but am particularly interested in creative and off-the-wall ways to maintain that excited state, remind myself to keep excited, or just simply to keep giving 100%.
posted by thorny to Work & Money (5 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty sure this happens to everybody. It certainly happens to me, at least. My only real formula is notebook + pen = keywords. A sentence or a paragraph or a handful of words, a sort of validation of the energy you felt at the time. Sometimes you'll feel jazzed for no particular reason, and that's when you go back to the little notebook, and see which thing hits you strongest.

Alternatively, just do it when you feel it. And with creative stuff especially, don't work on it until you're spent for the day - work up to the point where you still have ideas and there's still stuff you want to do with it, then put it to bed, and keep those ideas with you and let them spawn others. Then get back into it tomorrow.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:33 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Everybody has those moments.

The best thing I've got for you on the personal revelations is to try to "rediscover" them. Remember how you felt when you had them. Read books on the related topic that inspire you and remind you of that feeling. Take some time out to think or meditate on the topic, maybe make some notes on a notepad periodically about the thing. It's a pretty good way to recharge your enthusiasm.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:41 PM on February 23, 2011

I'm here to tell you as a creative professional that you cannot maintain your original level of enthusiasm on any long-term project. You use that spark of inspiration to light your furnace, but you keep it burning only through the backbreaking work that you do whether you feel like it or not. If you commit to the idea and do the work after the initial thrill has faded, slow-burning enthusiasm for the project will eventually emerge. Or maybe you'll hate it. Who cares? You thought it was a good idea once, so trust yourself and finish it.

This practice also produces a mystical side effect: it will make you a veritable lightning rod for new inspiration.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:51 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

When you get that first spark of inspiration, run with it. Don't stop until you've moved the needle, whether that means accomplishing something tangible or made a plan to execute. Ideally, the output you produce will be enough to keep you tumbling the challenges or the idea around in your head, keeping the inspiration simmering, and bringing you back to continue.

Sketch the result of your inspiration. Even if you can't draw, and even if what you're aiming for isn't visual in nature. Somehow a sketch makes it a little closer to real, at least for me.

I find that hanging up the sketch that sparked the initial excitement is a good practice. It typically encapsulates the Thing You're Trying To Do in an uncomplicated (if unrealistic) form. As the idea or the work evolves, having that sketch to refer to can help you remember what you set out to do.

Recognize that not all of your epiphanies will turn out to be good ideas once you've kicked the tires on them. Sometimes you realize later that it's not as cool as you thought it was in that moment - it's been done well before, it's not valuable, it's not going to help you the way you thought it would, whatever reason. I find that if I'm rigorous in how I critique my ideas, I'm more likely to pursue the ones I take on.

Find a good creative partner to collaborate with. Sometimes your excitement will be contagious, and sometimes you'll see them excited, and you'll either catch it or feel obligated to contribute. Either way, a great collaboration will yield a satisfaction that will inspire more collaboration.

I keep a little notebook for lessons I learn and ideas I have. It's full of those little epiphanies, personal and professional. I recognize that sometimes it's enough to just write it down and get it out of my head, while other times I'll dedicate more effort to acting on them. Either way, the book provides a great source of inspiration when I need it, a great record of my progress, and insight into patterns in my thinking and experiences that I might otherwise be too involved to notice.

And yeah, what milk white peacock said about hard work is absolutely true. Sometimes you just have to DO IT, muddle through, and chip away at it day after day. There are intrinsic rewards for the diligence, if you value what you're doing.
posted by nadise at 10:11 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing the advice to try pushing yourself to do it even when you don't feel like it.

On several AskMe threads about procrastination, I've seen the advice to set aside 15 minutes to just work on the thing you've been putting off. People often find that just getting into it reawakens that inspiration.

It often goes like this:

Wednesday afternoon: WOO! I have a GREAT idea for a short story! I'm going to start writing it the second I get home from work!

Wednesday evening: Um .. hm. So ... how do I start this? I ... it just doesn't seem that exciting anymore. Argh.

This is when you say to yourself, "Well, I'll just put in 15 minutes on it. See how it goes."

Sit down, get out your notebook, and start writing. Anything.

Chances are, you'll look up at the clock two hours later and realize you need some dinner.
posted by kristi at 9:18 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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