For the last decade or so, I've fiddled with blogging. I'll set up a WordPress account, make everything look pretty, and diligently pour my heart out in words...for about a week. Then I decide that it's stupid, I'm stupid, no one wants to read it, I don't have any original thoughts to share, and no one wants to hear me rehash someone else's ideas. I'm not creative, and I have nothing important to say.
I do the same thing with singing. Why should I learn this aria? Kathleen Battle, Dawn Upshaw, Barbara Bonney, and Judith Blegen have already recorded every classical piece I'll ever hope to sing. In a world in which Kelli O'Hara and Laura Osnes exist, why should I bother singing any musical theatre repertoire? And who am I to even consider singing jazz? Ella and Billie wrote the book. It's done. It's been done perfectly. No one wants to hear my take on it.
So I mope around for a bit feeling uninspired and whiny.
But then. But then.
I read a challenging book. I listen to a thoughtful podcast. I turn on my "to learn" playlist--a Spotify playlist of pieces that I would love to learn and perform, sung by truly excellent artists.
And magic happens. My brain starts whirling. I stop focusing on what I'm not and start focusing on what I could become, on where I'm headed. I stop caring about whether or not anyone else wants to hear or read my voice, and I start remembering that desires can build dreams, and gifts--even small gifts, well-tended--can build greatness. And in a moment, I remember why I practice, why I take lessons, why I read books, why I go to workshops, why I keep trying to be better. Because, in writing, singing, and life, my voice matters. However small the stage, however miniscule the scale, excellence is its own worthwhile pursuit.
Creativity begets creativity. Ideas beget ideas. Excellence begets excellence. Inspiration begets inspiration. Fires don't start by themselves. They need fuel (and oxygen and heat, but this isn't science class). Whatever your fire is, it needs fuel to power it. That's the good stuff--the books, podcasts, art, conversations, whatever--that get your energy up, get your wheels turning, and get you thinking, "Hey! Another way to think of that is.... And if I just try.... And maybe if I do this.... And you know what we haven't done yet is..." And before you know it, you've done the thing, differently than the other people who have also done the thing. And people responded to your thing in a different way than the other things they've heard before. And you were able to do it because, rather than focusing on how not-needed you are, you filled your mind with challenging goodness and did something.
Fuel up, and the creativity will follow.