Can We Survive on Inspiration?

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I was more surprised than anyone when I signed up to run a half marathon two years ago. I’d never been much of a runner and had not participated in an organized race before; starting with 13.1 miles was, I admit, a little bold. I had some friends running with me and was looking for a new challenge, so this was something I felt deeply determined to complete.

I learned early on in my training that I was capable of running for a relatively long period of time as long as I was accompanied by just the right playlist. The most upbeat, lyrically catchy songs would, quite literally, move me; music gave me the energy and inspiration to keep going.

I have running friends who choose not to listen to music during their jog—either it is too distracting or they prefer the quiet. I, of course, do not understand how they can do this. It sounds quite impressive but, for me? No music, no run.

There is no universal formula for experiencing inspiration. This is unfortunate, on some levels, but also incredibly freeing. The playlist that may inspire me to go for a run is the playlist that may remind you of how golden silence can be. We each must learn what inspires us, while also resting our inspiration on deeper-rooted desire and determination.

I work from home as a full-time writer. This is the ultimate dream job in my world. Each morning, my husband pours me a hot cup of coffee before going to work. With the entire home as my office and the whole world as my oyster, I set out to write sentence after glorious sentence of the most thoughtful, inspiring, and entertaining pieces of writing you could ever imagine. But first, I check emails, Facebook notifications, and morning headlines. I make my once-daily visit to LinkedIn, where I see a friend is celebrating their umpteenth anniversary at their amazing, well-paid (or, simply, “paid”) job. I get discouraged, ask myself what on God’s green earth I’m actually doing with my life, and then I eat a bowl of cereal.

Throughout the day, I do a lot of pacing around my house. I jot down notes about topics that could, maybe, somehow, someday become a blog post. I stalk the websites I want to write for, read the beautiful writing of others, and have lengthy, one-sided conversations with my dog. I write some terrible stories. Around 4pm, I’ll finally decide to shower. In the shower, on my very best days, a memory will come to me and I’ll think, YES! That’s it! About one day later, a blog post is born. Ta-da!

There are times when I actually do wake up inspired. An idea comes to me or something “clicks” in regards to a piece I’ve been working on, and I feel unstoppable in my writing. However, that does not happen everyday. Daily, I am slogging away, with a few cups of coffee and some deep talks with my dog.

Why, then, do I keep doing this work, with all of the pacing and slogging and terrible stories? Because I cannot not write. The times when I feel wildly inspired in my writing are sweet gifts, but it’s a love for and commitment to writing, running much deeper than inspiration, that keeps me going.

Music inspires me tremendously throughout a run, but I could not run 13 miles on music, alone. Some serious endurance and determination carried me from day one of my training to the finish line on race day. The inspiration music gave me helped me push through difficult miles, but my will to run the half marathon is what kept me committed to putting on my running shoes each day.

Whatever our work, inspiration cannot be our only fuel. I love my morning coffee, but even if I didn’t have a cup (or four) to start the day, I would still have to start my day. We cannot depend only on coffee in order to do life before noon, or on a set of songs in order to run 13 miles—just as we cannot rely solely on inspiration to do the work we feel called to do.

Let’s slog on, for the love of what we do.

Mallory Redmond

Writer at Mallory Redmond
Mallory Redmond is a wife, writer, and dog mom to Roger. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. You can follow her writing on her blog, where her stories are told with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity.

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  • Mallory, this is great! So often I don’t feel inspired and don’t think I can write anything, but I still keep writing because I have to get the words out. Like you said, once in awhile I really feel inspired and the words come with seemingly no effort. I love when that happens, but I also love just writing for the sake of it even if no one else reads my words. Thanks for sharing your beautiful, ordinary days with and without inspiration. 🙂 Blessings to you!

    • Amen, sister. Thank you for your words. Bless your process, even if it is slow and hard and not so pretty. Keep going!

  • carameredith.com

    Let us slog on INDEED, Mallory! This writerly life (including all of its occasional inspiration) is not for the faint of heart.

    • Not at all for the faint of heart! It takes slogging and coffee and lots of love from others living the writerly life. Thanks for how you encourage, good woman.

  • I love reading about your creative process. Lots of walking, thinking, coffee-ing (see? I’m making up words!). Inspiration is a lovely treat, but it is not how the work is done. 🙂

    • Coffee-ing is totally a word! (The kind of words we come up with when we’re slogging!) xoxo

  • YES! I already have the coffee ready to go for tomorrow morning. I wish we could easily be inspired to do the hard work, but sometimes it’s just about the slogging on as you said.