Here’s to the Lightning Strikes: Thoughts on Creative Inspiration

His football team lost, he stacked the dishwasher and then – inspiration struck. In his quest to understand why, Re writer Jack Anderson delves into the mystery that is the urge to create.

By Jack Anderson, Writer

Sep 2022

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Inspiration struck this evening.

I’m not sure exactly what it was that got the creative juices flowing. I clocked off at 5.30pm, went for a run, cooked dinner (Korean tacos) with my fiancé (Carley), watched my footy team lose, and did the dishes. At some point between filling the rinse aid and stacking the plates, I got the urge to create something. So, I started writing.

Not that I’ve asked everyone I’ve ever met, but I think all of us get this feeling in our own unique way. It’s a sort of sudden mental momentum, or energy – it could almost be described as creative adrenaline. Still, to this day, I’m not 100% sold on where it comes from, if we can control when we feel it, and why it can be so fleeting. But I do have some thoughts on the matter. Bear with me.

For most of my life I’ve leaned pretty heavily on sudden surges in creativity – or lightning strikes – to get me by. See, I used to be a singer/songwriter. And even though I still sing, and I still write songs, I don’t consider myself a singer/songwriter anymore (it’s a long story). But my justification for why I could come up with music and lyrics was that every now and then something in my head just clicks. I feel something, and I write it, or sing it, or move my body a certain way to express it (for transparency’s sake, I’ve always been really bad at the latter).

There have been plenty of times throughout my life when I’ve chalked my creativity up to one of these lightning strikes. Take September 2015, for example. I was ‘living’ (sleeping on a friend’s futon) in New York City, playing open mics and working coat check at Webster Hall. My family were all back home in Australia, I was running out of money, and our family dog had died while I was over there. Not trying to paint too sad a picture for you, but for a while I was going through a bit of a down phase. I missed home, and I had started writing a song for my sister about how, while I was living far away, I felt like I hadn’t been there for her. 

The song was half-finished in late September. I was walking up an East Village street as a pile of leaves got swept into the air by an autumn breeze. Lightning struck, and I took out my phone to tap some lines into Notes. All of a sudden I had a bridge for this song:

All at once you’ll see colour
Finally the leaves are letting go
Of the year they’ve seen
Of what they used to be

It felt like it came out of nowhere. But it’s kind of obvious when you think about it, right? I was an emotional wreck! And the more I look back on the times that I’ve had a lightning strike, the more I realise they came from a really emotional place. If I was jealous, or missing someone, or stoked to be alive, my first instinct would be to pick up the guitar and jot a few lines down.

Since I’ve transitioned from the recording studio to the creative studio, it’s taken some time to adapt my creativity to the 9-5. As a copywriter, there are deadlines and collaborations that can’t afford the time for the right lightning strike. So I’ve really had to work on my ability to flick the inspiration switch on and off, and turn the emotional dial up and down whenever necessary. And you’ll be happy to hear that I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing, even if my approach to creativity is a little different now from what it used to be.

Still, every now and then when I’m in the office, I’ll look around at my coworkers who I think the world of. Or hear a song that makes me wish I had written it. Or I’ll get a message from Carley that makes me miss her. Then something in my head will just click, and I’ll start typing.

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Sep 2022