We are inspired with creative energy when we divert ourselves from what we attempt to accomplish. I experienced inspiration when I got up from the piano, where I struggled to compose music, and prepared to walk to the co-op to pick up evening dinner. As I headed out the door, an idea landed. I dropped my grocery list and returned to the piano. Song lyrics jelled in my mind. Since inspiration may be fleeting, I wanted to capture my idea before it was lost.
Piano lessons began three years earlier, the first month of my retirement. My passion for music began before I played high school sixth chair trombone. Development of my musical aptitude, or lack thereof, was sidetracked as I raised a family and followed a business career. “Have you ever composed music starting with lyrics,” my piano teacher asked?
My usual pattern is to compose a song’s melody and wait for music to write lyrics. I produced music this way for two years. This approach made sense because my business persona told me, “It’s better to assign work to someone else than do it yourself. Let music write the lyrics. Assign the job to Mr. Music.”
This time I was stuck. Music would not report for work or produce the lyrics I wanted. “What’s wrong with me,” I wondered? “I might as well go shopping.” I tried various combinations of notes and chords. I wanted to write a chorus for a song about two people who desired another chance to repair their relationship. The musical hook would need to be unresolved tension leading to resolution. Just as the couple sought to repair their tense relationship, the lyrical resolution would need to be another opportunity to resolve the couple’s problems. I composed the note combination for the musical hook. I lacked the lyrics.
Suddenly my struggle was transformed with a burst of inspiration when I moved to shop for dinner instead of thinking about my meal. As I scrambled to write lyrics, music showed up and suggested the song’s melody.
Giant Sequoia may wait a human lifetime to open her cones and drop seeds on prepared soil. After a fire, in a forest cleared from undergrowth, with a burst of creative energy, new seedlings sprout. Think of the seven-year locust, or chorus frog. When time is right, the locust is diverted from her rest. She then fulfills her creative purpose. Each season, when conditions are amenable, Spring Peeper sings his nightly serenade.
Nature’s design for creation is diversion followed by energy. Think of break in activity as preparation for what we are called to create. Just as Sequoia’s seed awaits Fire’s interruption to burst with creative growth, we mull over obstacles as our subconscious prepares to resolve problems. Once I cleared my mind of distracting undergrowth that told me that I should go shopping, or wondering what’s wrong with me, and moved toward the market, I was prepared to write the lyrics I wanted.
What distracting undergrowth inhibits your inspiration? Do you appreciate diversion as incubation for creative work? Do you believe you need to work harder when you struggle? Or do you realize the potential of diversion from your work? Have you prepared for a lifetime, seven years, or just for tomorrow evening to sing your serenade?
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.