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What is Inspiration?

A guest post by Jonathan Tessier

What is Inspiration?
A tool for musicians, and everyone else…

The phenomenon of inspiration is familiar to everyone and one that affects many disciplinary fields: music, litterature, management, psychology, education, engineering, religion, etc. It can be seen as a minor motivation tool (i.e: preparing dinner) or even as a gigantic epiphany (i.e: inventing the lightbulb), but what’s fascinating about the psychology of inspiration, is that it does not depend on the mind, but more about the mind’s relationship to the external world. 

Inspiration can be associated to motivation, creativity, inventiveness and awakening. Some define it as a sudden burst of a ideas, a mental kick-starter or even a “prophetic enlightment”. The greeks saw inspiration as the fruit of beauty, truth and goodness; a divine gift bestowed upon us from the gods (namely Muses, Apollo and Dionysus). Monotheist practitioners would describe inspiration as a message from god, and it has been proven that artists, writers and musicians find inspiration from multiple sources including: nature, technology, history, human relationships, paintings, songs, poetry, novels and many other creative wellsprings. 

The external world is the environment outside of our mind, for example our habits, our interests, our relationships, our experiences and our routines have an enormous influence in the way inspiration is contrived. If “ideas” are the “foundations” of our “creations”, than inspiration is the silent whisper from our subconscious that feeds these ideas. But who is this whisperer? an angel? a brain cell? Zeus? Some call it our pre-conscious, others call it the universe, but whoever and wherever it comes from, it’s there. And it did not come out of nowhere. 

In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, accademics have studied the construct of inspiration and came up with the following conclusion. There are 3 aspects of inspiration: “Inspirable” which is a personality trait, “Inspired” which is a temporary state, and “Inspirational” which is a social evidence. A person deemed “Inspirable" is someone that constantly seeks inspiration through openness, research and curiosity; a person that feels “inspired” is momentarily enlightened with an idea; and to be “inspirational” means that a person (or a person’s work) inspires other people. 
Thus, one aspect is a habit, the second is a state, and the third is a social consequence. 

Furthermore, psychologists have observed that inspiration is related to perceived competence, self esteem, optimism, psychological resources, self determination, idiosyncrasy, gratitude, temperament, evocation, motivation and life satisfaction. They also noticed that it was more linked to character traits then being in the transient “inspired state”, implying that waiting to be “inspired” isn’t sufficient to attract inspiration. Therefore, these important character traits include: Openness to experience, compassion, emotional intelligence, the ability to witness virtue, work mastery (i.e: to know your craft), creativity, competence(i.e: the ability to deliver), absorption (i.e: integrating new knowledge, like a sponge), and perception (i.e: to have the ability see things more than what they are) are key elements to a personality that unlocks inspiration.
Hence, from the seed of inspiration, germinates the idea, it feeds the creative process which can be explained in 4 stages: Preparation (i.e: research and practice), incubation (i.e: testing, failing, achieving, advancing), illumination (i.e: finding the key idea that unlocks the bigger picture, in music it’s when the song “pops”) and verification (i.e: when the idea comes to life). As we can see, inspiration does not stop after the initial idea is introduced to the subject’s mind, it is re-introduced throughout the creative process, namely within the illumination stage.

To sum it up, inspiration comes from being inspirable, which leads to getting inspired and becoming inspirational. Therefore, waiting around to be inspired, without working on being inspirable, actually hinders inspiration. It’s like waiting for a plane at a train station, it won’t show up. If you want to use the tool of inspiration to it’s full capacity, you need to make inspiration a habit, a part of your everyday life, and this can only be achieved through hard-work and indomitable resolution to elevate  your art, your mind and your self on a higher ground.

About the author:

Passionate musician and songwriter. 

Currently writing from Ibiza, Spain at the notoriously inspiring SONIC VISTA STUDIOS ( 

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Jonathan Tessier

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