I keep running into paradoxes in these “wise sayings” I’ve been collecting. Lots of times the two seemingly conflicting “words of the wise” have come from the same book of quotes. But they’ve never appeared on the same page. I’m the one who’s been doing that. 

Like today, with the two below…

(but we’ll get to them later…)

Truth is, I like paradoxes. I think they stimulate my brain. Especially in the creative thinking area. 

This is a good attitude to have, I learn, as I read “Seven Secrets to Unleashing Your Inner Genius” in the Time Magazine special issue on The Science of Creativity that we looked at yesterday. In fact, “Key Number 5” is “Embrace opposing forces.”

The idea is to discover how so-called dichotomies may “not really be dichotomies at all.” I think this is an especially rich thing to do with seemingly conflicting scriptures. Some of my deepest biblical insights have come from wrestling with such things till I find the harmony.

But back to the paradox at hand, the tension between the two seemingly opposing points on what stirs creativity and keeps it rolling. Is it the desire to reach a goal, sell a client on an idea, or just maintain self-discipline in keeping up a good work ethic? Or, is it, on the other hand, giving yourself freedom to dilly-dally, mind-wander, or just chill out?

The answer is, yes.

To both.

Paradox. But not dichotomy.

According to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, a researcher and psychologist who has “spent years studying humanity’s unique penchant for innovation,” the Number 1 key to help unlock your own innate creative potential is this one:


“Don’t force inspiration.

“Sometimes you have a deadline that compels you to be creative, or a task that requires some imaginative elements. But focusing on goal-driven production may back-fire. ‘Inspiration is not something willed. It’s hard to wake up in the morning and say, “Im going to be inspired today.” The more you try to force it, the less likely you are to start. You need to create a space for people to discover things about themselves.'”

(I also have to insert something here about how I’ve thought of the inspiration that comes from God: It is “God breathed.” And that we can’t force, but only ask and wait for.)

So Dr. Kaufman’s related Key #6 is “Let your mind wander,,,”. But His Number 7 Key is “…But home in,” in which he emphasizes the value of focused mindfulness. 

So which comes first, the (self) motivation or the inspiration? And which keeps us going? I always thought of inspiration coming first, but I think it may be preceded by a lot of mind-wandering, day-dreaming, cloud-watching… you know. Then something happens, some little observation, and something clicks in the mind, and a whole lot of things coalesce, and that inspiration becomes the foundation of sometimes astounding things to come. A later article in this same special edition tells about the “Eureka” moments that produced Einstein’s theory of relativity (seeing Bern, Switzerland’s medieval clock tower as he rode by in a streetcar); Phil Farnsworth’s invention of the TV (by his plowing a potato field, at age 14, going back and forth, back and forth): George deMestral’s invention of Velcro (by returning from walking his dog in a burr-filled woods and later examining one of the burrs stuck to his pants. And so on.

It seems like it might be good to include here Einstein’s own definition of creativity:

Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

So have a little fun!


2 thoughts on “Day 29 Found Wisdom: Inspiration or Motivation?

  1. Have you read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? I just discovered the 25th anniversary edition on my kindle list. Actually parts of it seem vaguely familiar, but I think I have only read of it or quotes from it. The sample excerpt had a list of 10 basic principles of creativity. She says that you can interpret her use of “God” any way you choose :-\ but #4 is that we are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. #5 is Creativity is God’s gift to us and using our creativity is our gift to God. #6 The refusal to be creative is self-will and counter to our true nature. #7 When we open ourselves up to exploring our creativity we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction. She seems to address the inspiration/motivation issue.
    Just some food for thought

    1. No, I don’t think so. The title sounds familiar, but I think it’s because I read a book called something like “The Writer’s Way.”
      Great food for thought, though. I have long believed that creativity is much of what it means to be created in the image of God. I was just thinking of this last night, in fact, when I was reading more of that Time magazine special. (I wonder if we could really refuse to be creative, though. It seems like is so much a part of our human makeup that we couldn’t help being it to some extent. Maybe she means refusal to embrace our creativity, like what she’s talking about in #7. It seems like a lot of people refuse to do that!
      Thank you for this insightful information and comment, Laurie!

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