To paraphrase the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: A mythic journey always starts with your first step. How do you get started when looking for inspiration? Where does inspiration come from?
For me, I find inspiration in two places, or situations: First, in the shower. Second, when I show up.
Most of us have experienced shower inspiration and probably wonder why. Although not widely studied, psychology does have a theory that describes a mental state that seems to create the moment for inspiring thoughts. It’s called the “default mode network.”
The default mode network is a network of brain regions that are active when you are not focused on the outside world and your brain is at wakeful rest.
“You become less aware of your environment and more aware of your internal thoughts,” said John Kounios, a psychologist who studies creativity and distraction at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
These restful states of awakeness occur when we are doing something routine, like taking a walk in the woods, and we can focus on our inner self. Meditation can lead to this state. Almost any situation that does not require much focus on the outside world, allows us to focus on our inside world.
Surprisingly, our brain’s activity during our default mode state is 20 times greater than in our more normal active state. Scientific American calls it our “dark energy” state. It is all very mysterious. Go figure why there hasn’t been much research on this. (Here is a fun little read entitled, “The History of Shower Inspiration.”)
So how can you get inspiration when the shower doesn’t work? It is so simple, it sounds silly. You show up. Simply sit or stand or lie down with whatever block is holding you back until it says “uncle.”
If you are a writer, stare at the computer keyboard until you type something. If you are an artist, stare at a blank canvas until you put something on it. You get the idea.
Conceptually, this is not very difficult. You simply wait until something happens, until anything happens. The difficulty is in holding the intention and not leaving the computer, the blank piece of canvas, or the lump of clay until you do something with it.
Then the discovery process starts…
…because you showed up.