“There is no time or space where inspiration comes from—and also no competition, no ego, no limitations. In the end, it’s all just violets trying to come to light. There is only the stubbornness of the idea itself, refusing to stop searching until it finds an equally stubborn and available collaborator—you.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I’ve been asked quite a lot lately about what inspires me to paint and how do I get and stay inspired enough to create art. I’m always happy to get questions like this and be able to talk about creative living, particularly because I know many of us to a degree secretly long to be creative, or to recapture the magic of childlike wonder.
So, inspiration. Such a broad and abstract but very real kind of magic. I use the word magic because it oftentimes feels that way. You can be doing something mundane and be struck by a wild idea. Or you can be pounding away at your laptop for hours, but the words still don’t feel right and you wonder what you’re doing wrong.
Well, part of the magic of inspiration is you can’t predict or control when it comes and goes. Inspiration can be fickle and if you rely on its schedule you probably won’t get far. Good thing is, there are practices used by artists, writers, musicians, and creatives from all sorts of fields that can help you towards a more inspired state of mind. Here are some that I’ve learned and have helped me:
1. Look deep into the ordinary.
Or in simpler terms, pay attention. Keep an eye out for what kind of art you gravitate towards, what visuals catch your attention, and what triggers powerful memories in you. Inspiration can be everywhere if you keep your mind open and TAKE NOTES.
2. Follow your fascinations.
Inspiration looks different for everybody. What inspires me might be different from what inspires you. Chances are you already have a clue what interests or sparks joy in you. Follow that instinct. It will lead you to the questions you want to answer in your work and to the kind of problems in the world you would like to solve.
3. Pursue a wide variety of resources.
Read books, both fiction and non-fiction. Follow accounts devoted to what interests you. Seek out new classes, TED talks, and podcasts. The internet is full of so many ideas just a Google search away. Because the great part is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In fact some of the most memorable artworks combine what is nostalgic and familiar with what is surprising and unexpected.
4. Honor your solitude.
Allow yourself time and space to be inspired. New ideas come from allowing yourself to withdraw from the noise of the world periodically to go deep into the wilderness of thought, or conversely, into the playground of serious play.
5. Practice and share your craft.
Whatever activity sparks aliveness in you, keep engaging in it. Creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. With practice, you’ll start to notice patterns to your process. This becomes easier if you’re able to create a habit of documenting your ideas (TAKE NOTES) as they come to you. The more you practice, the more you’ll have to SHARE, and the more you share, the more ideas from other people will bounce back to you and back to them and…you get the picture! Plus, the more you share your ideas freely with the world vs. hoarding them, the more you’ll be compelled to keep searching for more ideas to give away. It’s a positive cycle.
Most importantly, don’t worry too hard about the problem of originality. All ideas come other ideas. Nearly everything has been said and done before, and even when some disruptive idea comes along, it was still birthed by some earlier idea. The important thing is not to worry about it. In your work, it’s best to say what you want to say in the way you want to say it. Because when it comes from an authentic place, the work itself will feel fresh and original—inspired.
With love & intensity,