Is Inspiration Like a Butterfly?


I was at a networking event chatting with someone who studied creativity–the academic, scientificky stuff, the parts of the brain, the naming of the parts.

Does your Creative Breakthroughs Collage tele-class use the “blah blah blah” thing with the brain?

No idea.

But he also didn’t make things. And then when I said to him, “you know, you don’t need to be inspired to be creative,” he looked so disappointed.

I said, “I’ve made things for a living on a deadline for a long time which means that I had to regularly create things whether I was inspired or not. The difference between my inspired work and my un-inspired work is pretty much nil.”

Since this is a favorite topic of mine, (poor guy!) I continued:

“But that’s not a bad thing, it’s a great thing” I said, “because I know my creative abilities are available to me all the time.”

He still looked a little disappointed.

Ah, Romance

Our romantic ideas about inspiration are powerful and sexy and well, romantic.

We love inspiration because it feels good–it feels real and special and different from everyday life, and we ALL love that.

But inspiration is also like a butterfly or a hummingbird–who knows when she’s going visit, let alone land long enough to get a good look at her and breathe in her delicate beauty.

So if you wait to be inspired before you start creating, well, you could wait a long time.

But in the same way a gardener can plant a a butterfly bush to draw butterflies into her world, you can plant the seeds that will invite inspiration into your life more regularly.

Well really, it’s just one seed.

And that seed is? Yep, you guessed it.


Don’t wait to be inspired to create. Start creating and you’ll get inspired.

That’s how it works. I promise this is true.

It doesn’t matter how simple you keep it. 20 Minutes here, 20 Minutes there is fantastic.

Go be by yourself, or sit in front of the TV with the whole fam, it really doesn’t matter.

Oh, and another helpful thing! Either

  • do something really important to you
  • or try something where you feel less emotionally invested in the outcome

Just do whichever one lets you feel safe enough or motivated enough to get started–it’s usually one or the other.

Be Kind

It does help if you can be gentle and generous with yourself and your creative attempts because everyone, everyone, everyone makes bad stuff sometimes.

Which also means it’s okay to make bad stuff because everyone does it and, THEREFORE, it’s not damning evidence proving that you suck.

And you know, the mean voices keep inspiration away, not the other way around.

Inspiration can’t get rid of the mean voices.

In fact, when you start pulling the mean-voice-weeds out of your creative garden, inspiration will actually start to flutter in more often because it’s safe and you’ve been tending things and making a welcoming atmosphere.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Now I also know the mean voices can be hard to get rid of, so next week I’ll talk about a meditation or two you might do to make room for other more positive voices.

In the meantime, remember–don’t wait to get inspired to create. Start creating and you’ll feel inspired.


What do you think? Have you been waiting to be inspired or do you already create regularly and find what I’m saying here to be true yourself? Wherever you are in the creative process, please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!

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  1. paula lewis says:

    This post was a wonderful gift to me. Thank you, Sarah, for showering your kindness and encouragement onto the little piece of parched artistic landscape that has been my untended garden of creativity. You’ve given me spring in early winter. Thank you!

  2. Sarah says:

    Oh Paula, I’m so glad! You’re very welcome and I look forward to seeing what you decide to create…xo

  3. Sherry Stoll says:

    I have no trouble being inspired. All I need to do is walk through a craft store or open a craft magazine. :-) My mind is always whirling with creative ideas. I have a harder time keeping organized enough to create all the things I have trapped in my brain.

    I’m certainly not complaining though. It’s a nice challenge to have as far as I’m concerned.

  4. This is so timely Sarah!
    Yesterday had one of those *weeds* pop up and I was actually surprised at my internal response.
    Started a class that has an on-line group and we were just introducing ourselves and posting some work. I put up a couple of my double sides box canvas pieces and one other collage piece, did my intro (very simple) and when I check back later, some guy also taking the class has posted his website (which I checked and it was okay work—it looked like *a lot* of other assemblage I had seen) and has also posted a raft of comments, one being “Obviously someone has been very influenced by ______” (teachers name) in a really snide way. Well, *I* was the one he was referring to, and my work and the artists work bear little resemblance, if any…….and I sat there ready to pull ever photo off the group.
    And here is what stunned me; I could not believe after all these years doing work that this would affect me so! One comment! I was pinching myself, saying–WAKE UP!
    It is interesting reading your thoughts on the *weeds* because I have a feeling this guy is going to be a thorn thru the whole class. And I really want to learn something, not to COPY work but to just be in a learning environment and also as a method of making myself work at a time of year when I routinely don’t.
    And yes, inspiration IS a butterfly…..FLIT. it’s here and FLIT. it’s gone.
    You just slog thru those times.


  5. Deni says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for today’s email about inspiration being a butterfly. It’s going to help me go out to my studio right now, even though I feel completely uninspired lately.

    Also, thank you for your 2 recent cards. Send Out Cards is a great thing!



  6. Excellent post! It’s so easy to fall in love the romance of inspiration, the “visit from the creative muse”! Creativity, like yoga, meditation and exercise, is a daily practice. Practice.

    You said it best, Sarah, “Start creating, and you’ll get inspired.”

    Thanks for your excellent blog and Facebook sites!


  7. “I’ve made things for a living on a deadline for a long time which means that I had to regularly create things whether I was inspired or not. The difference between my inspired work and my un-inspired work is pretty much nil.”

    This is so true!
    I never think about it. I think lack of inspiration is just another way of saying: I am afraid to commit myself to growth. All making of stuff means spending some time with the technical aspects of how materials handle. I think that once you gain a proficiency with the materials, you gain confidence and inspiration comes with that.


  8. Sarah says:

    Thanks Serena!

  9. Deb H says:

    I love this topic! I find that inspiration can actually be a productivity killer; I’m always getting bombarded with inspiration to the point that I cannot focus on any one thing long enough to finish it. My SIL calls it ADD, I call it a creative personality. Deliberately blocking out new inspiration is the key to creating for me.

  10. Debera Dowell says:

    Oh my gosh, I love and am learning to live with this exact school of thought about creating and pushing out the mean voices. I have a wonderful woman in my life who loves me and wants to help me with my art, however her vision for the direction of my art and mine are no longer in line and so while she would like for me to paint in the traditional ways being strapped with tons of rules of painting in a realistic form I am finding my own vision in a playful whimsical place. Her voice while well meant has become mean in my head and had left me paralized and terribly miserable because i saw everything i had done through her eyes and I sucked!
    So the thought occured to me that before I knew all the rules I created a couple pieces that i was very pleased with in fact i was inspired by them to create more and then after only a couple of days my first piece sold! apparently a lot of other people don’t have to know the rules they just know what they like. so i am back on track being true to my own creative voice and vision, I have never liked rules too much anyway, the only rule i have is that i enjoy the process and trust that it will all come out quite wonderful. and if it sucks well then it is just a matter of starting over a little white paint and the canvas is almost new again! thanks for the encouragement Sarah
    Deb D.

  11. [...] week, I talked about how you shouldn’t wait until you feel inspired to create. You have to create and then you’ll feel [...]

  12. Sarah says:

    Fantastic Deb–that’s it exactly. Your story made my day!

  13. Debera Dowell says:


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