How many times have you postponed starting a project because you did not feel inspired to do so? When's the last time you couldn't put pen to paper because you were waiting for inspiration to hit?

Inspiration can be an elusive thing. We wait on it to strike every time we create. We might even believe its presence governs how successful we are as creatives, artists, or industry professionals.

But what if you didn't have to find inspiration in order to complete your work? What if you let inspiration find you?

Many successful people have already figured out that waiting for inspiration is actually a waste of time. They aren't dependent on how inspired they feel in order to produce work. In many cases, they instead produce work in order to feel more inspired. Iconic French painter Henri Matisse understood this decades ago, having once said, "Don't wait for inspiration. It comes while one is working."

If you're serious about creation or working on a consistent basis, you will need to get to work and forget about needing to be inspired. Instead, focus on following schedules or routines, which, according to famous psychologist William James, "free our minds to advance to really interesting fields of action."

Schedules may sound like they have the capacity to confine your creativity, but in truth, they can actually bolster it. Some of the world's greatest artists have stuck to schedules in order to create phenomenal work. Maya Angelou once rented a local hotel room, to be used strictly for writing. Arriving at 6:30 am, she wrote until 2 pm, went back home to edit, and then repeated the process the next day. A serious daily routine is nothing to be laughed at -- even Elon Musk keeps his schedule airtight and strict, divided into 5-minute intervals for optimal efficiency. For Musk, there isn't a lot of time to sit and wait around for inspiration.

American painter and photographer Chuck Close, known for his massive-scale photorealist portraits of himself and others, doesn't waste time waiting for inspiration either. He has been quoted as saying, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work." Even further, he explains, 

If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens...inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.

So stop hoping to feel inspired. Set a schedule for your work, and stick to it.

Author Jack London advised that you be aggressive, and "go after [inspiration] with a club." And, essayist Susan Sontag has this to offer: "Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration's shove or society's kiss on your forehead."

Adds Jonathan Zaback, senior managing partner and co-founder of Impact Partners,

To wait for external influence to be inspired is a dangerous way to achieve and maintain success. True inspiration comes from delicate combination of one's own confidence, life experience, and fearlessness. It needs to be as natural and real time as our caveman instincts of flight or fight. When an opportunity comes, and they always do with a limited window, you must be able to jump in with two feet, and not wait for external stimuli to pounce.

No matter what advice you receive, remember that a true professional shows up every day to work. An amateur waits around.

Published on: Apr 5, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.