Advice vs. Inspiration

What if Mozart asked for Beethoven’s advice?

Beethoven may have said something like — “Yyyyyyeah, Wolfgang, that one section in Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, I’d take it in this direction…” — and the song would probably never have seen the light of day.

Creativity is a lonely endeavor.

A certain part of us constantly wants to know that it’s safe. That it’s on the right track. It wants multiple choice questions and it wants the answers.

Am I doing this right? What will people’s guaranteed reaction be to this? Where can I find the answers?

Creatives struggle with this every day. But here’s the unfortunate (or fortunate — depending on how you look at it) truth…

True art takes sitting alone in a room and trusting your gut… failure, after failure, after failure.

You’re putting brand new stuff out to the world. You have no idea whether it will work or not because it hasn’t yet been done in the way you’re doing it.

Sure, in today’s world, Mozart could put together an online course titled “How to Become A Maestro in 5 Easy Steps”. He could put it on Udemy and probably make a killing.

But what kind of art could you create from this 5-step approach?

Sure, it would probably give you a great start. It might get you pretty far. But I’d argue only so far.

On the flip-side of this, what if you were inspired by Mozart’s music to the point where you put every ounce of your being into the work? What if you were so moved by his work that you couldn’t help but sit down at the keys until your fingers were rendered inoperable due to cramping, day after day, and created your own art?

This is a different thing entirely. To be frozen in time as you sit with eyes closed during a Mozart crescendo and let it resonate with every molecule in your body and synapse in your brain. To let it transform you. To lose yourself in the music, completely. To know afterwards, as you come to, that it is now permanently programmed in your DNA and will carry you through the process as you create your own masterpieces.

This is the difference between advice and inspiration. One’s easier, more fulfilling to the ego, and safer. The other will tear your world apart. But it will rebuild it with the stuff that your unimagined dreams are made of.

So what are you going to do?

Let the music into your soul? Let it take the small ‘you’ away? Let it rake you over the coals and have its way with you?

Or just follow the five steps and impress your friends during the holidays?

Both are fine choices. Which one is you?

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Jonas writes daily essays and meditations at Medium. To get them delivered straight to your inbox as soon as they’re live, click here.