“I learned…that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.”
~ Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
Sprouting the seeds of inspiration requires that we fill our days with authentic, joyful experiences that make us feel alive.
Mrs. Bryson, our sixth grade teacher, gave us the homework assignment: fill a small, styrofoam cup with potting soil, plant one or two beans, water the soil, and write your name on the cup. Bring your cup to class and place it on the windowsill. Continue to monitor your beans each day and document their progress in your journal. Once they sprout, sketch and color your plants.
I was excited and couldn’t wait to plant my beans and watch them grow.
I placed my planted beans in the long line of labeled styrofoam cups on the windowsill. During the day, while we were working on assignments, I’d turn my attention to the back of the room and scan for my cup. Just to make sure it was still there, safe and sound.
Over the course of a week, I’d ensure the soil was watered and would turn the cup so that each side would receive equal amounts of the sun’s strength. Around Day 8 or so, beans in the other cups began to sprout.
I studied the successful sprouts, scrutinizing the tender shoots curving out of the soil like tiny, green hooks. It felt like the most mysterious and magical power in the Universe…this life emanating out of dirt.
I’d go back to my cup and look for any signs of life. Nothing. I took it in stride and waited.
Around Day 10, the vast majority of seeds had sprouted. Students gathered in front of their cups with their journals and pencils and stood sketching their tiny works of art like patrons in a museum.
The soil in my cup showed no signs of life, and I began to worry.
From Anxiety to Joy
I can remember going home after school and writing about my bean sprout anxiety in my diary. Why wouldn’t my beans sprout? What had I done wrong?
Finally, after about fourteen days, the soil in my cup gave birth to two, sweet sprouts. I was relieved, fascinated, and thrilled. (I came to learn my beans took longer to sprout as I had planted them further into the soil.) At last, I could watch my plants grow and sketch their progress.
As the tiny sprouts broke the surface of the soil and stretched upward, they continued to wear their seed coat hats. I turned the cup and lifted it to get a better look. Inside the coats were flat, folded, green leaves, huddled together like fraternal twins in the womb.
I didn’t have the ability to draw the green twins in such a way to reflect what my eyes saw, so I opted to write about them. I filled a page in my journal detailing the miracle of the green twins. Impossibly small, perfect, mini versions of adult leaves waiting to shed their coats and make their debut in full sun.
I returned to the windowsill again and again instead of going out for recess and remained fixated on my little crop. Witnessing their daily progress filled me with a tingly excitement that I had previously only known during birthdays, holidays, and vacations.
I know now what had held me captivated was being in the presence and full awareness of robust life force. Chi. Mother Nature’s power to bring new creations into being.
The very same divine vigor that drives our creativity, surfacing the power from deep within the soil of us, up through the membrane of our surface, and into the world. The drive that is fueled by gentle pulses of inspiration—soft breezes that take us in certain directions—here and there—and ultimately toward the creation and discovery of new lands.
How do we become better cultivators and protectors of the energy of inspiration—the elusive force that transmutes nothing into something as if it were touched by the wizard’s wand? How can we foster the development and health of a pipeline of such energy, so that it is available to us in the moment we reach for it?
That is, how do we sprout the seeds of inspiration?
Experiencing Authentic Exhilaration
I believe the mystical, Persian poet, Hafiz, has the answer: “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.”
Whether we are entrepreneurs launching a new product or service, searching for our ideal clients, or looking to ensure we achieve traction in the market, the voyage to our success is powered by joy-filled experiences that are authentic for us.
This is equally true for creators of all stripes…writers, chefs, dancers, sculptures, painters.
If we know definitely what it is that brings us alive, what fills us with limitless exhilaration, we can lock on to that heading and let ourselves be steered right toward the genesis of our best, most irresistible, creative work.
By ignoring the noise competing for our attention that is emanating from all sides of us, we can build upon the foundation of what it is we find meaningful. We can then witness what is coming from within us, rather than look outside for answers or listen to everyone except ourselves.
By using our own carefully-tuned discernment as to what we love or don’t, we can strike a balance between curiosity and confidence. It is from this powerful stance that we board the boat of inspiration and let it guide us. We sail with a knowing there are no mistakes and a fearlessness on the open seas of creating work that transforms our market (and us).
When we are closest to our own hearts, we can hear the heartbeats of those we most want to serve, giving us clues for what to tuck into the soil and tend to its fullest vibrancy.