Inspiration Has an Expiration Date


Hi, friends! I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Well, thinking about some of the blog posts I want to write, how I need your help with more ideas for my upcoming adventure (which now includes some travel through the USA!) and wondering what you are up to over there. But I haven’t let myself sit down to finish a post yet, because I’m finally, finally, finally head down in my book proposal – and I’m scared if I take myself away from it for too long, I’ll lose my focus and the whole project will crumble.

If you’ve been on my mailing list for a while, or we’re friends in real life, you know I’ve been talking about this book proposal for months. Unfortunately, that’s basically all I’ve been doing: talking. Talking, brainstorming and trying to figure out exactly what the book was going to be about. There were so many parts of my story that I thought I should include but I couldn’t figure out how. I was trying to combine pieces from multiple puzzles to make one big puzzle and it just didn’t work.

In January, things finally started to become more clear. I felt inspired, grabbed a blank notebook and, over the course of a week, filled it with a timeline of events. The idea began to form, but I was still stuck on the ending. In February, I typed up most of my notes and began to piece it all together, but then had to put it on the back burner (again), so I could complete enough freelance work to feel comfortable taking a few weeks off post-operation. (And then I needed that operation…)

Since “coming back to work”, however, I haven’t been able to think about anything other than this book – and the writing is finally flowing. I know exactly what the beginning, middle and end look like. I have a long list of all the stories I want to include. The prologue and epilogue are mapped out. I even have a title and an entire social media campaign (and web domains) in my back pocket. It’s happening. But it’s only happening because I’m finally giving it my full attention. And I have Rework to thank for that.

I received a handful of books as gifts from friends, to read while I am recovering, including a copy of Rework from Sarah. At first, I wasn’t sure that I needed to read a business book. But it only took a few chapters for me to get sucked in, and realize how much of it applied to the business of blogging. Not only did Rework give me permission to ignore what other people are doing, accept fewer interviews and take back more of my time, it taught me that inspiration is perishable:

“We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal. They last forever. What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: it has an expiration date. If you want to do something, you’ve got to do it now. You can’t put it on a shelf and wait two months to get around to it. You can’t just say you’ll do it later. Later, you won’t be pumped up about it anymore. If you’re inspired on a Friday, swear off the weekend and dive into the project. When you’re high on inspiration, you can get two weeks of work done in twenty-four hours. Inspiration is a time machine in that way. Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won’t wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.”

That’s it. That’s literally the entire chapter from the book – and it gave me the approval I needed to work on nothing but this proposal. For as much as I used to pride myself on being able to manage multiple projects with multiple deadlines, it makes sense that I perform better when I have a singular focus. Think about it: that’s how I paid off my debt in two years, how I got rid of the first 40%+ of my belongings in three weeks – and it’s how I’m going to finish my book proposal.

I’ve said before that you should manage your energy, not your time, and the same rule applies here. I’m inspired now. I have the perfect lull between big client projects now. And I have the idea now. I’m going for it. I’m also not scared anymore. Writing a memoir isn’t easy, especially when you’re sharing things you’ve never written about before – or even told some of your closest friends. But I’m ready now… so, if you’re looking for me, that’s what I’m doing!

I’m hoping to wrap it up in the next couple of weeks, so will be back as soon as I can! I have a list of things I want to write about soon, and I owe you my first quarterly budget of 2016 too. In the meantime, when you think about something you want to tackle and feel the surge of excited energy rush through you, promise me you’ll jump up and start. Don’t add it to your to-do list or say you’ll do it “soon”. Soon isn’t coming. Inspiration is a now thing. Please grab it and run.

  • I love it when I am facing an issue and then I read/watch/ listen to something that I totally resonate with. Thanks for writing this.

  • This is one of the big themes of Big Magic and was my absolute favourite part of the book! We have to feed those ideas with our inspiration for them to thrive!

    • I was also going to mention Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to Cait. She talks about ideas floating around waiting to find someone ready to shape them. Grabbing it now and running seems right!

    • Yes! I read that book last fall (and have since listened to the audiobook too). Love love love.

  • Very “Inspirational” words this morning Cait. “Soon isn’t coming. Inspiration is a now thing.” I am always putting things off to tomorrow or next week, or soon.
    Looking forward to your book. Wishing you great success with it.

  • I’m excited for you! I needed this post this morning; Monday presents two things for me: 1. Another week where my balance is not quite where I would like it and 2. Another week to work towards getting the balance more in line with what I would like.

    I’ve been playing around with the idea of taking off some time from work to focus on my ‘other’ goal. Beyond spending time with those I love, I can’t think of a better way to use my ‘earned’ time off.

    Looking forward to the book!

    • Ooo, what do you want to do with your time off, Liz!? Whatever it is, if you can make it happen, DO IT.

  • BOOM
    That was a wonderful quote Cait and thank you for sharing that particular excerpt form Sarah’s book. I find that is how I treat many of my blogs posts. They are in my mind but once the inspiration hits that is when they come to life, forcing myself to produce the content just doesn’t work. I know the lack of regular publishing of content may hurt my readership numbers but I think those that choose to follow me know that the irregularity produces better results.

    This Inspiration based activity is also what guides my mountain climbing, hikes and other adventures. I generally build a few options for a period of time but let my emotion and instincts of the time decide ultimately where I will go.

    Lastly, for the US portion of your trip I am ready to enjoy a good cup of coffee and discuss some of my highway choices and adventure options I was happiest with.

    Terrific post today once again, thanks Cait.

    • I should be able to drive up in a couple weeks, Chris! Would love to grab another coffee and start talking shop :D

  • Yes yes yes yes yes! All of this is so, so true. At least for me, inspiration is much more perishable than fruit or milk. It’s something I’ve got to attack right that second, or at least right that hour, or it might be gone forever. But when I listen to that inspiration, I’m usually pretty happy with what comes out. :-) Good luck finishing your book! Rooting for you from over here.

    • Yes! It’s usually how I write blog posts, too – get an idea and just run like wild with it. It’s been impossible to write a blog post, while working on this… my head is so wrapped up in it! Anyway, gotta grab the inspiration while it’s here. :D

  • I think it so good to acknowledge and follow our inspiration, not only because we will achieve more, but because it encourages others to not wait for the “right time” to start something. As a society we really do pride ourselves on the ability to multitask or stick to a schedule. Trying to juggle BIG ideas always makes it seem like we’re accomplishing more, but everythind ends up getting half-assed (for lack of a better word). If you have the opportunity to allow inspiration to shape your schedule, do it!

    • That’s a great point, Lauren! If you want to get something done, you have to make the time for it – not wait for the time to come.

  • When I was traveling in an RV I had a list of places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see but I didn’t set a schedule. Instead, each morning I would ask what I feel like doing today and go for that. If my mind said do laundry today I could pretty much count on stumbling upon some great conversation in a laundromat. If you let life do it, it will give you some wonderful experiences.

    • What a wonderful story, Linda! I can’t WAIT to get on the road and live the same way. :)

  • I love the feeling of being inspired. It’s so true–you really do feel like you can accomplish SOOO much. Unfortunately for me my inspired times are usually overrun by life– kids, work and husband so I get very little time to use it as wisely as I’d like.

    • I bet! But you can still take the jolt of inspiration that comes in small doses – like when you think of doing something around the house or even curling up and finally reading a book. Whatever you want to do, just do it – even if it’s only for a few minutes. :)

  • Cait,how ver true. When I’m trying to come up with an idea for my blog or anything I can get so much work done in such a short time when I’m in the zone. When I can’t focus and don’t have the inspiration I might as well not do anything cause I accomplish nothing.

    Can’t wait for your book to come out, where do we pre-order?

  • And that’s why I’m still awake reading your post tonight! I had a stray wisp of a thought that had to be dropped off in one draft, which led to another thought for a related post, and that turned into 500 words and a direction I couldn’t have predicted.

    We may not always have the perfect day or week or longer chunk of time to dedicate to the inspiration but taking any few minutes and bits that we can is so worth it. It feels like there’s an energy back in my writing that hasn’t been there for a while, and you can’t force that.

    • Ahhhhh, I LOVE hearing that! That’s how I felt when I was banging out posts in February, right before my surgery. I let go of all my usual “rules” (only publish on Monday, take hours and hours to make it amazing, etc.) and just WROTE. Some of them are my all-time favourites now. Go go go, write write write. :)

  • I love that quote about inspiration. It’s very true for me when I’m writing as well – if I don’t do when I have the inspiration and idea then later it just won’t be the same. The passion doesn’t always last.

    • Nope. And I also try not to self-edit as much, when I’m in this flow. Things can be edited later. It’s important to get ideas down NOW.

  • Checking my local library for that book this week. Thanks for bringing it into my radar! I’ve been a feeling a bit guilty lately about funneling 95% of my energy into my own project at the expense some real-life administrative stuff, and this is exactly (seriously, exactly) what I needed to hear. Your blog so consistently gives me a kick of inspiration / motivation when I come looking for it <3 Excited for the momentum you're gaining, and looking forward to hearing more about it when you're ready.

    • I’m so glad, Dylan! Honestly, I wasn’t sure if this post would serve as anything more than a quick update… but I’m really glad it gave you another kick. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll definitely share more when I can! :)

  • That’s so great that the book proposal is going well! Yay for reaching a flow state!

    Isn’t it funny how to-do lists can be a sort of purgatorial holding pen for things you think you should do but don’t actually have the motivation to do? I had “study Spanish” on my to-do list for like three years and never did it, but this month I suddenly got super inspired to learn Spanish because it’s relevant to my new job, and all of a sudden I’m studying Spanish all the time, in my free time, even without having to write it on a to-do list. Amazing. :)

    • That’s awesome, Sarah! I’ve definitely found that to-do lists are only good for things to do THAT DAY – not ideas of things you want to do in the future. :)

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