Inspiration, Where Are You?

Written on October 12th, 2017

Sometimes I can’t stop the words from coming, and I end up writing five fully-polished articles in as many days.

Other times it’s all I can do to get out of bed and trudge through my accounting homework, the thought of doing anything above the bare minimum becoming actually painful.

Often, I experience these two things very close together. Last week, for example, I was a creative machine: I wrote every day, actually liked what I wrote, and worked so ahead in one of my design classes that I won’t have homework for the next two weeks. But today I feel as though I’m barely surviving: I had two meetings and a video interview last night, an exam at 9:30 this morning, and another midterm waits for me this evening. It’s all I can do to get through one accounting problem every half hour without falling asleep.

It’s interesting to go from one extreme to the other. I try so hard to set myself up for consistent productivity, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out… I think even the best of us tap out after a while.

When I woke up this morning, I knew the day was going to be rough. It’s gloomy here in Madison — looming clouds and cold rain have taken over campus — and it’s not the magical Redwood mist I came to appreciate this summer. No, this is the kind of atmosphere that makes you want to crawl back under the covers and plant yourself there for at least another couple of hours.

Add to that how exam preparation and job applications have been steadily messing with my sleep schedule, and I was turned back into a lazy teenager when my alarm went off at 6:00 — there was not a single second of hesitation before I slammed snooze.

I finally broke out of my slump to put my feet on the ground and change into real clothes, and it’s been an upward trajectory from there (even if the slope has been gradual). I’ve come to find that on these days where it seems like being a person is just too much to handle, I need to take my inspiration into my own hands.

You see, usually the world just naturally gives me enough to go on. My morning cup of chai, the sunrise over the lake, even my simple walk to class are often sufficient to get my mind rolling. I joke with one of my roommates that he needs to be “more awash in the beauty of life”. But today… well, I myself wasn’t awash in anything but sluggishness.

So I decided I had to force myself to be.

While making my bed, I blasted a “get pumped” playlist from high school; featuring probably too much Bon Jovi, it’s a soundtrack to which I can’t help but nod my head. From there I drank an entire bottle of water with breakfast, spent some purposeful moments “awh”-ing at cute dogs on Instagram, and managed to cram some last minute review in before heading to my test. I made sure to wear my favorite, most worn-in jeans and the Redwood sweatshirt I bought on the day I got engaged. When I closed my eyes and breathed in the morning mist, I was almost able to believe that I was relaxing across the country instead of speed walking to put my name on a scantron form. Of course, when I opened them I realized I was actually standing in the middle of a crosswalk about to block traffic… but we can’t win ’em all. 😉

What I mean is that it’s always the small things that make the biggest difference. Even now, I still honestly feel sort of disillusioned with the whole day. I’m ready for it to be over. But I’m consciously making an effort to embrace these moments, even if I feel drained and uninspired and a thousand shades of gray, because I know that I’ll eventually have a breakthrough.

Inspiration likes to jump out at me when I least expect it… and it also likes to play a mean game of hide and seek. I don’t get to pick which one it’s doing on any given day, but I do get to decide whether or not I accept it.

The truth is that I won’t be a whirlwind of productivity every single second I’m alive. I’ll have days where I do the minimum. I’ll have days where I probably do less than that. But I will also have moments where I achieve unbelievably more than I ever thought I could — and those are the ones that keep me going.

Soon, I’ll feel inspired about life again. Until that moment, though, I’m just going to do the best I can.