Episode 12


Inspiration vs Motivation vs Momentum in Creativity

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What's more important in creative life? Inspiration, motivation or momentum? Which comes first and how do we get inspired and motivated more often?

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Inspiration vs Motivation vs Momentum in Creativity

Often our lives as creatives are guided by two things – inspiration and motivation. So let’s talk about that on today’s episode of The Positive Creatives!


Hello hello hello my name is Adam and I’m the creator and host of The Positive Creatives. I’m here to help you life a more positive creative life, finding positive ways out of tricky creative life situations. Welcome if you’re new and welcome back if you’re not!

I’m so low on motivation at the moment. I’m admitting that to you today. I just can’t get much wind in my sails to do much at all.

It’s easy for me to put these episodes and instagram posts together spouting what I think is pretty good advice for being positive and creative, but I suffer with the same things you suffer with and that’s why I do this – because we’re on the same wavelength!

I pretty much opened this podcast in episode one by saying that it’s ok to be low on inspiration and motivation during a pandemic… and I still stand firmly by that statement.

I’ve had periods during the last 12 months where I’ve been riding high, doing loads, feeling really inspired.

But most of the last year I’ve found it really difficult to get moving creatively. And it’s down to the two things I wanted to start to talk about on today’s episode and I’ll give you and me some tips on how we can get moving when we’re stuck in a low motivation phase.

Inspiration and motivation are the two things. They’re very different things but often we use the two words interchangeably.

In reality what we struggle with most I think is motivation.

Because most of the time we’re not inspired. And when we’re not inspired we’re not motivated, but there’s this saying that I kind of want to dissect a bit this week.

Apparently Picasso once said this:

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

I always feel the need to say apparently when I quote something from the internet. Also Picasso probably said it in Spanish and it sounds too cool in English for it to have been translated…

Anyway… inspiration exists but it has to find you working.

How about that? Picasso is well known to have been a creative workaholic so it’s no surprise that he said this, but there’s a massive element of truth in it.

But what does he mean by it and does it make any sense. We often just take as read quotes that we see on social media and whatnot so I like to dissect these things for you! You’re so welcome!

So a lot of people use this quote to inspire people to hustle more. To just work in the hope that inspiration will come knocking if you’re already working. But I think it’s more to do with habit.

If you sit on the sofa like I admittedly have for much of this week, waiting for inspiration to hit, the whole time bemoaning that you’re not inspired, you probably won’t get inspired. Mainly because you’re focusing all your energy on the fact you’re not inspired, getting more and more worked up about it as the days come and go, but also because you’re not trying to inspire yourself.

Picasso would paint and paint and paint – apparently – almost all the time. Many of those paintings never saw the light of day. It’s an old but true cliche that to make good stuff you’ve got to make a lot of not good stuff. And I think that’s really at the root of what Picasso was saying, if he said it at all.

Sometimes you’ve got to just get yourself making stuff. Because making bad stuff, or stuff that’s not very good will lead to you making better stuff. But making nothing won’t lead to you making anything.

But I think this applies just as much if not more to motivation than it does too inspiration.

I’ve felt really, really inspired and full of ideas for most of the pandemic year and a bit, but what I’ve lacked is the motivation to do anything with those ideas. And speaking to a good few of my friends that’s how they feel too. There are things we want to be doing, but there’s very little get up and go to get them done.

According to Google the difference between inspiration and motivation is that inspiration is what drives you but it’s motivation that pushes you along and gives you momentum, so this makes sense, definitely in creative terms anyway.

So you can be inspired, full of ideas, but without the momentum and motivation getting them done is hard.

So like I said in episode 5 when I talked about productivity a bit, I’ve started to prioritise momentum as a way to achieve motivation.

But how?!

There’s a bit in the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert where she says:

“Go walk the dog, go pick up every bit of trash on the street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile. You might think it’s procrastination, but—with the right intention—it isn’t; it’s motion. And any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion. So wave your arms around. Make something. Do something. Do anything.”

I’ve recommended it before and it’s truly my favourite book about creativity so if you’ve still not read it, read it now. It’ll be worth it. You can thank me later.

But this concept of “inspiration will always be drawn to motion” is such a powerfully simple one.

She’s not saying, I don’t think so anyway, that you’ll get your next big great groundbreaking idea from walking the dog, but she’s saying movement inspires movement. Doing something will make you want to do something else. Doing nothing will make you want to do more nothing.

I’ve been trapped in the doing nothing spiral for a couple of weeks. Luckily I’ve got this podcast to do once a week and that kind of resets me nicely on a Sunday when I sit down to put it together. I always want to carry on working after.

So when Elizabeth Gilbert says “Make something. Do something. Do anything.” there’s a lot in that, and it’s very similar to when Picasso said “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.”

Doing something will make you want to do something else. And as soon as you’re on the momentum train, life is good.

Make sure if you haven’t already you listen to episode 5 for why it’s important to not go 100mph on the momentum train and why sometimes backing off the throttle is the key to keeping that momentum going for longer and getting more out of it.

So here’s my plan for getting out of my rut this week, and hopefully it inspires you to do the same:

My kids go back to school tomorrow for the first time since December so to me it feels like a good day to start afresh. So all the bad habits I’ve built up like staying in bed, playing too much Fortnite and spending too long looking at TikTok will reduce tomorrow.

I’m going to get a good exercise session in as early as I can in the day. I know the earlier I do this, the more of the day I’ll feel like is available to do some work.

I’m going to come and sit in my studio, even if I don’t know what I want to work on. I know that if I sit at my desk here I’m much more likely to do something than if I’m sat in bed or on the sofa.

I’m going to get back to making lists of the boring stuff I need to do. I mentioned on an instagram reel last week I think how sometimes when we’re finding it difficult to move forward it’s because boring stuff is causing a mental blockage. I know if I write down a to-do list I’ll get those things done.

And so I’ll spend the first half of the day exercising, showering and clearing any boring admin. Then I’ve got a whole half a day to do fun creative stuff, and I’ve hopefully built up the momentum in the morning by just doing stuff.

Inspiration will find me working, and then hopefully the cycle of positive forward momentum will continue! And I hope the same for you as we hopefully start to come out of the other side of what I know has been a really hard year for lots of us.

And take it easy on yourself. If you’ve had a long period like me of almost complete creative inertia, don’t expect to get back to your previous best. Give yourself credit for taking small steps. Any momentum is good momentum. As long as we’re moving forward it’s all good. I saw a great little quote on instagram this week that I’ll finish on here:

“Your direction matters more than your speed”.

I love that.

Ok listen read and watch time!

Listen: There’s an amazing new podcast called Renegades Born in the USA and it’s Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama. Really it shouldn’t be allowed as two people as articulate and cool as they are shouldn’t be allowed to have a podcast, let alone do one together! It’s only on Spotify but check it out.

Read: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell has so many good books I could and probably will recommend all of them on here over time, but this is a cool one which talks about genius, the 10,000 hour rule and stuff like that. It’s very cool.

Watch: A short film about Jim Carrey’s art called I Needed Color. I’ve linked it in the show notes on the website or you can just google it or youtube it. He gets a lot of stick for his art, people saying he should just stick to acting and he’s just another actor who’s become a poor artist but I hate that. Everything is subjective as I’ve said a million times and art should be without judgement. It’s fine not to like it but it’s not fine to judge the person making it. Anyway give it a watch.

Alright then my positive creative friend. I hope you find some motivation, momentum and inspiration this week and I’ll see you over on Instagram @thepositivecreatives and if this is your first time here have a listen to some of my other episodes. See you next time on The Positive Creatives!

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