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Rely More on Perspiration than Inspiration

Guest blogger, Jon Kraushar

President at Jon Kraushar & Associates, Inc.

As a journalist, then a public relations executive and (for most of my career) a communications coach, here is an important lesson I have learned about writing or any other creative or demanding endeavor:

Inspiration is a gift that gets you going. But perspiration—discipline and hard work—is the gift that keeps on giving because it keeps you going.

Great dance music is inspirational. It makes it almost impossible to sit still. You tap your feet, clap your hands and want to get up and move to the beat. But if you want to be a great dancer, you’ve got to work on your moves, rhythm and coordination diligently, over time.

Watching professional athletes perform at a high level of competence can inspire us. We may be motivated to go outside and throw or smack a ball, run, jump, dive, pedal, ski and skate—or pull and push our bodies in any other way to execute in pursuit of a goal. But reaching our athletic potential requires ongoing skill drilling, pushing past previous limits, testing, and course corrections.

After an ounce of inspiration, you need a ton of sweat.

Inspiration is only a spark—a start. To sustain inspiration, you must keep blowing on that spark to turn it into a glowing, growing fire.

Indeed, the word “inspiration” derives from the Latin inspirare “blow into, breathe upon,” figuratively “inspire, excite, inflame.”

To succeed day-to-day and long term, a painter, designer, composer, choreographer, novelist or any other kind of “creative” or aspirant to high achievement cannot rely on “inspiration” alone as motivation.

As painter/photographer Chuck Close has said, “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

English playwright, novelist, and short story writer William Somerset Maugham put it this way: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.”

A disciplined routine is key. Choreographer Twyla Tharp explains:

“Whether it's a painter finding his way each morning to the easel, or a medical researcher returning daily to the laboratory, the routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more.”

Inspiration puts you on the path. Discipline and sustained hard work keep you on the path.

In Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, in 1878:

"Artists have a vested interest in our believing in the flash of revelation, the so-called inspiration... shining down from heavens as a ray of grace. In reality, the imagination of the good artist or thinker produces continuously good, mediocre or bad things, but his judgment, trained and sharpened to a fine point, rejects, selects, connects... All great artists and thinkers are great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering."

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