1. The bright side.
Inspiration is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? That moment when you feel the energy rushing through your body and there is no way but giving in to the feeling of creating and bringing that idea to life. Inspiration might suddenly pop up like a jellyfish in front of a submarine, looking through the window before floating away again. It might sounds as overwhelming and exciting as the beats of Tomorrowland especially when you don’t have the time to do anything with it, like when you need to study for an exam or working for a deadline 🙂
2. Where does it go wrong?
It might feel mysterious as sometimes it’s hiding in pure white silence as thick as morning fog. It might leave a creator doubtful of his own achievements. What if that idea was just luck? What if I can’t find that spark again? What if… You can try to fill your pockets with inspiration once you find some, holding on to it and squeeze it so hard that it will slip through your fingers just like sand.
Creating is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.
This one beautiful quote strips off all the illusion of creative work at once. It might be either a disillusion or an opportunity to take back your power to chase down what inspires you instead dragging along the burden of the mythical inspiration.
Being inspired is not finding a nice photograph on Pinterest or Instagram. It’s not seeing an article in a magazine or hearing an interesting person speak. All these things have the opportunity to become inspiration at the very moment you act on this trigger. This means going one (maybe uncomfortable) step further from the pleasant feeling of seeing (and sensing a possibility of) somebody else’s work to actually creating something yourself.
3. Just do it.
I am not the kind of person who works better with a stressful deadline, I like the time to consider, reconsider, try, and try again. I think I am at my best when I can slowly mould fragments into a story, shaping them as I go through words, colours and lines. Or when I can wander, climb the mountains, follow the rivers and get wet sock in an attempt to find the right spot for a photograph. To me the journey is as important as the end result. Although some assignments are just about getting it done within the time frame. That’s reality.
For some people a deadline works like a miracle unicorn that gives them wings to dance on rainbows while I’m more like the myotonic goats under stress (you know, those that flip over when they have stress).
Knowing yourself and your work methods can help to break through the blank page struggle. I am for example the opposite of a morning person and I have built my routine towards working hours with some cleaning (clears my mind and my floors!), walking the dogs (exercise for body & brain + calm dogs afterwards) and reading (I love visual things but nothing inspires me more than some well-intentioned words). Then I go for my blue-with-white-dots-apron. Even more important than this ritual/routine is actually showing up and start and not using it as a tool to procrastinate. Open the laptop and type, place the canvas and paint, actively look around and photograph or making some sketches in a sketchbook. On the good days and the bad. I try to make at least one thing a day*, … even if it’s just a silly snow man- that counts too, right 🙂 ?
Training the inspiration-muscle will definitely help to access it quicker and easier when needed. But the trick of routine doesn’t always work of course. Luckily I have some more tricks up my sleeve to get ideas flowing again. Despite the fact I usually work in silence I have a playlist with songs that contribute to the right mood. Also some of my favourite books have a spot within reach and sometimes it’s even enough to see them and to feel the hidden energy between the pages. Other days I dive into the pool of words like you would jump in a crystal clear lake up in the mountains and as you hold your breath and descend into the darkness the bubbling letters tickle your imagination. Enjoying the weightlessness just as long as possible before returning and breaking through the bright surface and drying the glowing skin.
*. I sometimes read tips about letting go when you don’t feel inspired. To take a break, even for months. There are two reasons why I don’t fully agree. First of all if you have an assignment that needs to be finished you can’t just wait for inspiration to happen. Secondly I am a believer of staying active and practice -even if it’s at a very slow pace- rather than waiting. On the other hand I do think that letting go of pressure, taking rest and time are important to a creative practice but never to the extent of not-doing as the status quo. I rather see it as static electricity that is transferred when moving between idleness and vigour.
Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.
4. The dark side.
For many creative people inspiration – or the lack of it- can be a crucial struggle. The white sheet of paper boldly staring back at you is probably a frustration we all have to encounter from time to time.
If you want to be inspired to feel inspired, you can never get too comfortable in life as being inspired is a mindset and a mind with too much routine and familiar surroundings will slip into a dusty laziness. This might be the darker side of inspiration. The side where you need the sharp edges as well as the softest touch as both sides of life on order to stay challenged, curious and affected. There are as many methods as there are people looking for inspiration but the main idea is to keep your eyes and ears wide open. Having the sensors of your skin on ultra sensitive, leaving your pores so wide open that life itself can pervade the skin and rush through your blood into your bones.
5. Hunting for inspiration.
Where you are looking probably depends on what you are looking for or what you want to make. To my experience, sometimes it can be as easy as taking a quick look online, but often it doesn’t give me much fulfilment or I might be overwhelmed by the great work of others. For storytelling like making books or zines (what I love the most) I find a deep dive much more rewarding. When working on Eleutheromania I realized that there was something triggered by the books and quotes that I read. I had the idea that I could relate to these writings by others but I don’t want to be just saying: “Yeah, I feel the same way!” without taking on the challenge myself. That’s how my project of 62 days north found its roots and made me end up in another country.
Working on I don’t like Mondays for which I wrote to Brenda Spencer, had contact with psychiatrists and read all I could find about school shooters left me wrenched and sometimes it was difficult to reach the surface of normal life again. Although I now think I would draw or paint things completely different, at that point I turned my heart inside out on paper and that’s what gives me closure once the projects is done.
I noticed that –for me- having a variety of experiences myself and constantly being open to whatever comes my way, keeps me inspired and prevents me from staring at the dry bedding of what once was a river of inspiration. This doesn’t mean I always know how to translate and idea or a feeling into a work, absolutely not! I am often struggling and wrestling with brush strokes, colors and lines, unsure of what will happen- but letting it happen. I will be a lifelong student who makes a lot of mistakes and sh*tty work. But that’s ok. It’s part of the fun and a way to grow. And every time I think I can’t do it but I hold on like a Pitbull I learn and train to work through the tough part where chaos and insecurity rule. Is there a final moment of perfection? I don’t think so. But as good as possible at this moment is fine by me :-).
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.