Habit Beats Inspiration

Habit Beats Inspiration

November 25, 2019 by

As communication professionals often tasked with coming up with killer creative ideas, you should know by now that lightning rarely strikes. If you sit around waiting for inspiration to show up, you’re going to be sitting alone for a while. Instead, the creative life is built on habit.

The late writer Octavia Butler put it this way:

“Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

Instead of waiting for incredible ideas, communicators need to be doing the hard work of communicating. Consistent, effective communication will get you farther than the rare lightning strike of a single good idea.

Lightning vs. Flowing Water

A lightning strike is flashy. It flares up instantly, burning everything in its path. It might be a lone strike that barely leaves a scratch, or it could spark a forest fire that burns for miles and miles and miles. On the rare instances when it sparks something greater, it still eventually burns out. It will take some time, but new growth will eventually cover over the scars like it never happened.

But the steady drip, drip, drip of habit is like water flowing over rock. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, it just does the work. The slow, geological process creates gullies and ravines where water flows, scouring and scooping the rock one grain at a time—imperceptible progress. That’s how the Grand Canyon is carved out of the solid desert rock.

Inspiration is the lightning that strikes rarely and burns bright and fast.

Habit is the steady work that leaves an impact for generations.

Do the Work

You want your work to create an impact that lasts the test of time. You don’t want a flash-in-the-pan idea that will gain a few likes today and be forgotten tomorrow. You want to do something that matters.

So do the work.

  • Be consistent: Crank out those bulletins, social posts, announcements, or whatever you do on a regular basis with consistent quality. More than news blurbs, these are the lifeblood of your community. This is the work of your church happening, so give it your all.
  • Document ideas: Sometimes you do need ideas. But rather than sitting at your desk waiting for the ideas to come, you should have a collection of brilliant, some day ideas ready to go. Maybe it’s a folder or a box or a filing cabinet, but you should be stuffing those ideas somewhere, saving them for a rainy day. Then when you need ideas, you open your folder (way more efficient than waiting for lightning to strike).
  • Create habits: Building good habits requires repetition. You show up and you do the work. Over and over again. It’s not glamorous, but it’s how the job gets done. You can’t take shortcuts or do it halfway. You have to ingrain the habit of doing a solid job, every time.

Octavia Butler summed up her writing advice like this:

“Write, every day, whether you like it or not. Screw inspiration.”

You’re probably not writing a novel in the church office. But you are doing a lot of writing and communicating important things. And if you wait for inspiration, you’re going to be in trouble.

Instead, rely on the habit of good communication.


Need a creative boost? Check out our self-care resources for our Courageous Storytellers members.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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