A woman was walking through a forest when she saw a man sitting in a small clearing, playing the flute. A group of people sat in a semi-circle around him and when he was finished, they all clapped and cheered, begging for more. He smiled and kept playing.
“Your music is mesmerizing,” the woman said during a break. “Where do you get your inspiration?”
“I play for the people sitting here,” he said. “When they like what they hear, I feel happy.”
“But who taught you to play?” she asked. “Surely someone introduced you to the magic that you’re creating.”
He led her along a riverbank, climbed a steep hill and walked along a muddy trail until they heard a haunting sound. A lone figure was sitting on a grassy knoll in front of a lake, legs crossed, playing a flute. They watched from afar and when he was through, he sat in silence, his eyes closed, a peaceful smile on his face. The woman had tears in her eyes. “Your music is beautiful,” she said, “but his is the voice of the angels. How does he do it?”
“I look to other people for approval,” said her guide. “My teacher doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. He plays only for himself.”
During the past five months, we’ve had extra time on our hands, but we’re not necessarily doing what we want to do. Maybe you don’t have the energy to embark on your dream, maybe you feel sluggish and uninspired. But if you’re waiting for approval and inspiration, that doesn’t make you an artist. It makes you a waiter. Thomas Edison said, “None of my inventions came by accident. They took trial after trial. It all boils down to 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
If you’re trying to paint a picture, solve a puzzle, write a story, do a dance or remodel your closet, it’s a good idea to stop looking for praise. You may fail and fail again but please keep on trying until you find your unique expression.
You will. Van Gogh never sold a painting, but he kept on painting because it was his passion. Kathryn Stockard’s blockbuster best seller, “The Help,” was rejected 60 times. She kept revising and rewriting, against the advice of the people who loved her, and her 61st submission was the charm. Stephen King threw his manuscript, Carrie, his breakthrough horror story that made his career, into the trash. What if his wife hadn’t fished it out? We would never even know his name. Just imagine how many great books, paintings, operas, plays and films languish in the back of a closet, never seeing the light of day because someone didn’t feel inspired and was afraid of being mediocre and being judged.
If you’re up against the wall, feeling isolated, unsupported, confused, and uncertain where you’re going, instead of waiting for a sign, don’t get discouraged. Start where you are, stop chasing inspiration and let it find you. If you threw a party and the birthday girl didn’t show up, what would you do? You’d enjoy the party anyway, get to know the people around you, have a bite to eat and a glass of wine, and when you look up, there’s the muse in all her glory, ready to guide you along a breathtaking pathway to your soul’s expression.
That’s how inspiration rolls.