Thursday, September 16, 2010

Inspired-ness...what inspires it?

I received a kind email from a customer yesterday, and with her permission, I'm posting a portion of it here:

"Carol, I'm a struggling new soapmaker, found you on a soap forum one day a while back and you were the most helpful person there, having patience with my silly newbie questions.  I have long admired your website and soap, was thrilled when you added art that's a style I enjoy too.  I love to go to your websites just to take a break and feel inspired.  I showed my husband your workshop and art studio online tour and I have finally felt the courage that if you could do it, maybe I could try too.  He agreed and is now supporting me in trying to set up a bigger work area to work from home and grow my business.  I really hope I can make this work, I really want to try.  My question though is, how do you find the inspiration to do this every day in a bad economy and keep coming up with ideas?  I often feel like my inspiration is dried up and I can't find it anymore.  It's the only thing that makes me doubt if I can really make this business fly longterm."  - Amy, North Carolina

To Amy, and anyone.....

I honestly do not know where inspiration comes from, or if it is indeed something that "just comes" at all, or you have to cultivate it.  Sometimes I think you have to go find *IT*!  But I'll share with you my spin.....

Like anyone, I have days where I wake up feeling divinely inspired (particulary after a really good night's sleep! Sleep really IS my magic elixir!)  And I AM one of those people who keeps an idea journal at my bedside because I often am struck by an idea while dreaming, wake up and jot it down (then have to decipher my own scrawling or scribbly pictures in the a.m.!).  I have idea journals laying all over the house, workshop, and in my purse (if away from home) because quite honestly, I get brainstorms and they can slip out of my head as fast as they enter!  So writing ideas down is mandatory!  (But that may be my age speaking...heh heh!)  Brainstorming is and always has been a specialty of mine, and if you spoke with anyone who knows me personally, they would probably tell you that rarely is a conversation with me devoid of some new crazy idea.  The ideas may not all eventually be employed, but I'm always thinking about them.  Maybe it's a disease, or compulsion, but for every 10 crazy ideas I get, at least one is usually worthy.  Point being, don't remain stagnate....keep *flow* happening.

Any person you see who seems to have inspired can bet that they love their work and their work reflects them...their TRUEST passions and interests!  It's cliche I suppose, about "do what you love and the money will follow"...  perhaps the truest of cliches!  Some invisible idea jar opens up in their head so easily when they are thinking about, dreaming about, imagining about what it is they love doing and you can never really close the idea jar again, it just flows eternally & naturally, paired with a fearlessness about trying new ideas untried before!  And I think this is a direct extension of the "loving it" factor.  I seriously doubt you'll find this with anyone trying to force doing a job or service who follows some formula they've seen work elsewhere, if they aren't feeling the passion themself, ya know?  Passion is infectious.  Others sense and know when you are passionate about what you do, and it makes them feel even better about aligning with or supporting that endeavor...a natural and inevitable direction toward success!  So, the economy can be awful, but passion is not barometered by the fact a passionate business will more likely rise like cream in an economy that is depressing everyone else who needs & craves seeing and feeling some hope and positivity again!  It's so much easier to support a business and person that will not allow the economy to deter their mission, or who is living out that passion.  Passion is what enduring American commerce was built on and will always be built on.

But yes....even when you love what you are doing, there is always the monotonous side of any life's work--the boring paperwork, the messes to clean-up (especially in a greasy, olive oil splattered soap work area!), the customers who are annoying just because it apparently is their personality trait to be, or they got up on the wrong side of the bed, and it feels like a chore just to have to call them back and speak with a smile on your face, turn their sour slant around.  But this is life and part of the whole ball of wax.  You deal with it and embrace it as "part of the joy, part of the challenge".   If it was always easy, you'd be bored and never appreciate the truly all-fun days! ;)

When I have days that are out of balance, i.e. more stuff on the to-do docket that I DON'T feel like doing, than DO feel like doing.....THAT'S when I go seeking inspiration, because it's not finding me! 

And my own recipe for that is:

Be the child you used to be.  You know, before you became all jaded and opinionated by the world.  Just be a kid again who sees all the possibilites and none of the limitations.  Lose yourself in being silly if need be!  Laugh sessions are highly under-rated these days as the best natural remedy to.....ANYTHING!  SO WHAT if your neighbors hear you cackling like a hyena and they know on one else is home with's contagious! And all the wonderful endorphins released are quite curative of whatever ails ya. And opens that inspiration jar wider! 

Even if you're surrounded by a lot of to-do stuff you don't like, drown it out with stuff you DO like!  For me, music is a big part of that.  Aerosmith generally rocks me out of any unsettled mood (play what rocks YOUR world)...or a favorite movie plugged into the DVD player in my work area.  And I DO subscribe to making my work areas comfortable and catering to these diversions. 

Avoid heavy concentrations of *the news* or elements that can have a depressing effect (take it from a reforming CNN junkie).  Don't tune the entire world out (cuz you may miss something you really need to know!)...but control how much goes into your head.  What we think about, is what we are and become.  YOU control the *in* and *out* switch on that.  Parents do this with their young children, but neglect to do it for themselves. Consider that aspect with the books/Kindle you read, and any info. or people that you subject yourself to to enrich your brain and overall direction!  When you're around vampiric type people (people that suck the emotional life out of you) this can drag you down faster than cement blocks.  Learn to say "no", not pick up the phone, and not faciliate conversations that suck the emotional life out of you.  When vampires lose an audience, they generally change their ways, or at least go elsewhere to scavenge an audience, and leave you alone. This is a good thing.  ;)

Sometimes people ask me if I have a difficult time "being alone" all day working, holed-up in my workshop or art studio, no (physical) contact with the outter world as an office or corporate world job would provide. 


NOT having to deal with others in my workspace or face all day is specifically one of the things that IS most conducive (for me) to creativity and inspiration!  I only have to answer to me and my critters!  I can wear whatever I feel like, listen to whatever I feel like, take a break whenever I feel like it...BUT, this environment does require self-discipline.  Some can't handle the freedom or needing to discipline themself to work under these conditions.  I can.  I've always had a very strong work ethic, instilled by my parents I'm sure.  But I've seen and known many others over the years who long-craved having their own home-business, and then upon achieving that step, fail miserably, mainly because they could not discipline themself to develop a work schedule, a to-do list of goals to get done every day, under their own direction and self-expectations.  Many struggle with this. Many see the opportunity of it.  Only you really know this about yourself and can use it to it's max capacity to achieve!

A strong work ethic is valuable, but it can also be a deterrent to a balanced life...and lead to murdered creativity and inspiration.  I tend to be one of those who will get absorbed with a project, or a self-created, overloaded to-do list, and work till I drop...literally.  This is neither smart or healthy, nor condusive to success.  If you don't take time to nurture all areas of your life, all the areas of your life WILL suffer.  One is dependent upon the other, yin and yang and all that.  When I work too much, I get majorly cranky and out of sorts, and start losing my passion.  So while I sometimes have to choose to force myself to take a break, NOT feel guilty about it (you'll notice on my blog posts that I am working on taking guilt-free breaks!), it always pays off in the end!  For most people, like me, you are not "just" your work passion. I am also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, peer.....and it's important to me to succeed at all these roles for my life to be fulfilling.  All areas of your life successes nurture the work-passion part;... if you are not a caring listening spouse or parent, ...chances are you won't be a caring, listening business owner to your customers.

And on that note of well-roundedness...take care of yourself.  You can't give what you don't have.  It's so true that if your own well is empty, you won't be able to draw on anything to give to your loved ones, your business, or any endeavor.  You'll be flat out empty!  Don't go there.  Make taking care of yourself as mandatory a part of your day as taking a shower.  As part of my exercise regime, as well as when I am feeling "empty", I take a walk with my pups, get out of my usual environment, see a bit of the outside world, get some blood pumping..and man, the ideas just start flying again! Voila!  Inspiration!  It works!  Costs nothing.  There for anyone who can walk.....

This post is starting to sound like I'm a positive thinking guru...which I am not.  ;)  The only real point I wanted to answer to and make is, inspiration is there for any of us to grab and nurture, it's what you choose to do with it.  I don't think any of us are more-gifted with inspiration than others, but I do think some are more inclined to listen to and follow those in-our-head whispers.  This is not schizophrenia, it's being open to and embracing, and trusting in your own imagination.  Follow it!  Even if it takes you to strange and sometimes dead end places, at least you've journeyed in the process! 

I'd rather do that, than not! ;)

"The biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy!"
 - Malcolm Forbes

P.S.  When I began offering my fantasy art for sale publicly, due to some negative comments I received, it made me wonder if I'd alientated people who think fantasy, fairies, or witches are weird, something they erroneously are not, or just not their cup of tea.  I admittedly felt bruised at being judged & labeled negatively.  But I quickly realized that as soon as I stop being true to my own inspirations and callings and try to "follow a formula" for what I "believe" general populace others will accept or not accept, it's the kiss of death to your own passion and individuality.  YOU no longer own your creativity and inspiration, you will have handed that over to whomever you're trying to sell to, and you will forever be beholdin' to them.  Are you willing to give that away??? 
If people are of a sort inclined to judge & label you, I now see that as perhaps a very normal and natural weeding-out process of people, who you are likely better off not having in your circle anyway, both for their rejection of you for following your own inspiration, as well as for being judgemental, ...period. 

When you are true to yourself, your soul is free, your passion flies!  Be inspired for *you* first, and success, and most-importantly HAPPINESS will follow...along with a never-ending flow of inspiration!

Best wishes!  And have a magical day!
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