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The Inspiration Curse (and how to use it in your favour!)

We’ve all been there, either to do it or to see it: Struck by a great idea, a man or woman of tremendous confidence raises their glass, full of pride. They’ve decided that, if they build something, others will come. So they wipe the table clean, pull up their laptop/notepad/papyrus roll, and they sketch out their masterplan. Every single step is clear; it’s all in their head. Until, with the project done, comes the time to open shop.

And, although the plan seemed to be perfect from beginning to completion, they’re greatly disillusioned when others show little or no interest in their idea. 

The inspiration curse

Like this comic shows us, there is such a thing as thinking yourself out from your own good. 

Let’s call the phenomenon mentioned above the inspiration curse, and let’s delineate it as follows:

The inspiration curse: The reality shock that occurs after finding out (upon contact with reality) that the products of one’s ideas are not as widely desirable as first considered. 

Everyone in a creative pursuit, from jugglers to singer-songwriters and entrepreneurs (with fancy ties) faces the inspiration curse at some point. And the curse is a called curse for a reason: It sucks the fun and pleasure out of creative endeavours just like drafting out a Terms and Conditions page does.

However, the curse has a benevolent (even inspiring) side for those that learn to like it: Playing by its rules, one can not only wholly avoid the curse but also perform his/her most valuable (and therefore most likely successful) work.  

To beat the inspiration curse, one needs to:

Fail often

You don’t go on a date wearing your underwear on the outside for the sake of being remarkable. Likewise, you shouldn’t actively try to fail, at least not all the time. 

With that said, failure is an extremely productive teacher. Few things can beat the positive momentum and self-organising growth that originates from constant creative reinvention. Be sure; no one knows what will stick or will not. And, if insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then the sanest possible thing you can do is try as many things as possible, and see what creates a hit for you, in your particular place and time!

Fail publicly

Human beings are hard-wired to avoid shame to be able to survive in nature. We are social creatures, and attempting something uncool, strange, or out of place in public makes us uncomfortable by just thinking about it. 

However, few things survive contact with reality, even when they’re perfect in theory. The only adequate judge for whether your ideas will or not be a hit is the same public that you aim to captivate. When in doubt, show them what you’ve got, curiously observe their reactions, listen to their feedback (try not to polarise them one way or the other), and try again. 

Fail inexpensively

The inspiration curse’s favourite food isn’t your hopes and dreams… it also loves your money and time! It drools by just thinking about you investing countless hours and resources into creating something that will not work. So, don’t let it! 

Instead, aim to rig the game in your favour: Try and pre-sell that app you want to make before you start coding. Record a song demo and see if people like it before you hit a $5,000/hr music studio. See if your friends are all available before organising a party. You CAN be a sucker for the inspiration curse, but you don’t have to.

The Failure Paradox: small failures avoid giant failures.

If you take just one thing from this article, make it so that you remember: you can’t fail big if you fail smart. By continuously failing, you’ll set out to learn more, build unique insights, and exercise your mind’s abilities to solve problems and create desirable things. By failing publicly, often, and inexpensively, you set yourself up for success in real life over time. In other words, the sky’s the limit, and the floor’s really close. 

So, what are you waiting for? Go outside and fail hard!

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