What comes first, the inspiration or the work?

Lightning on an urban horizon with machinery in the foreground

It seems like inspiration should come first.

It seems like you should wait for it to strike and then make as much space as possible for the output which it will fuel. “Clear the decks,” you yell, “I’ve got a full tank of inspiration and I’m not stopping until it’s dry”.

But that’s not how it works, unfortunately – the work always comes first.

Inspiration doesn’t push the work; work drags inspiration into the world, sometimes kicking and screaming.

You show up, you start working and then the inspiration comes.

If you wait for inspiration to show up, you’ll be waiting for a long time.

If you wait for inspiration to show up, you’ll be forever afraid of it running out. It will seem like a precious resource that needs to be handled like eggs. You’ll wrap your inspired ideas in cotton wool and smother them before they have any chance of growing.

If you do the work first, you’ll learn that inspiration is free and plentiful and should never be hoarded away. You’ll learn that inspired ideas should be unwrapped and exposed to full sunshine as quickly as possible so you can determine which will grow and which need to be discarded (yes, some great ideas need to be discarded – they might not be for you).

If you do the work first, you can be generous with your inspiration and the ideas that follow, because you know there’s always more where that comes from.

If you do the work first, everything else will follow.

And since you’re going to be starting this work, most of the time, without inspiration – you’d better start to love the work.