Is Inspiration a Pre-requisite for My Singing Work?

sheet music on piano
Eric Maisel, PhD is a leading psychotherapist, teacher & creativity coach with more than 50 books including Fearless Creating.

Dear Dr. Maisel,

My singing is in the creative side of my life – so I treat it differently than getting up out of bed for my day job – which I just do. Do I need to feel inspired before I move ahead with my singing (I am thinking of improving my technique and increasing my repertoire – and performing more)?


Ah, it is very wise not to wait for inspiration! The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky once remarked, “I’m inspired every fifth day or so, but I only get that fifth day if I show up the other four.” This truth about process, that inspiration only comes periodically and that it only comes if we’re working, means that we must work without any particular inspiration a good deal of the time.

That isn’t to say that the work must therefore feel tedious, boring, or like heavy lifting during those uninspired hours. We can still imbue the work with a certain ceremonial intensity, solemnity, and joyfulness even if we aren’t also feeling inspired. But we have to do that imbuing, by thinking the kinds of thoughts that support our intention to work diligently and devotionally even though we may be feeling uninspired.

Another way to think about why we must work while uninspired is the following. An activity that serves our meaning needs may not feel meaningful in the moment as we engage in it. For instance, you might support a certain cause with all of your heart and find activism very meaningful but maybe what you are doing this week is the equivalent of licking envelopes for the cause, which may feel very boring. The cause is meaningful to you—licking envelopes, not so much.

The same with singing. Nothing may be more meaningful to you than your singing, yet dry practicing may not feel very meaningful. This is a very adult thing to learn, that activities in the service of meaning may not feel particularly meaningful. In fact, they may feel tedious—or worse, they may underscore that we aren’t as proficient as we wish we were. That can be painful to recognize. But if your intention is to sing professionally, then you must face that news, operate as your own singing coach, and improve.

You say that you want to improve your technique and increase your repertoire. That requires real work and probably daily work. You’d better not wait for inspiration—the clock is ticking. Nor does a day not singing feel very good. Even if what’s facing you is tedious and maybe even unpleasant, better to face it than to use the too-handy excuse that you just aren’t feeling inspired today.

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