For a long time I have been interested in the idea of inspiration, and how it is referred to in relation to artists and their work processes. Is the idea of the artist struck by inspiration sometimes a romanticized ideal, invented by art historians to explain a lot of hard work, passion, unusual perspective, and skill? Being an artist is sometimes viewed as a god given talent, but like anything else it is a learnt skill that takes practice and training to get better at. Being able to stay motivated and inspired in a creative profession is the same.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines inspiration as: The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
Being hit by inspiration does happen, but not always in the way people think it should. In my experience, inspiration doesn’t often come crashing at me like a bolt of lightning. I wouldn’t really describe it as just a split second ‘aha’ moment. For me, feeling inspired is just the result of a series of actions and events. My big ideas happen after long explorations, or a forced break from my normal routine, or a step outside my comfort zone. My inspiration is often self engineered.
This brings me to a book I found at my local library called Creative Block. I love this book, and want to share it with others because it gives you a look into the work processes of real artists. It is full of practical advice and projects that can keep you ticking, and help you reboot during a creative block.
One artist in the book mentioned that when she is stuck, she gets five or six sheets of paper and draws all over them, the way you would doodle over a school binder, no worries about the outcome, just keep doodling. Then when you are done, sit back and analyse the results, are there any recurring motifs or styles on the pages, what insights can you gain from this?
Another artist mentioned setting yourself automated daily tasks that force you to keep going no matter what. After reading this, I started doing a combination of these two ideas every night, drawing spontaneously in a sketch book after the kids go to bed, sometimes in front of the TV. It has been a really nice experience not having to worry about whether the drawing will turn into anything. I plan to keep on drawing every night, and take on a few of the other projects from the book that look interesting. I have already started an exploration into drawing with embroidery, that has been strangely satisfying. This has all made me feel stimulated and happy and that in turn has increased my productivity, all good things.
There have been many points during my career, far more than I care to share, when I have thought “What the hell am I doing?”, and when I have experienced a genuine lack of direction or purpose. So far, I have always managed to bounce back from these periods. The word my tutor at art school used most to describe me was ‘tenacious’ (That was in public, god knows what he called me in private.). Anyway, bouncing back matters, bouncing back is an important part of being human. We can’t always feel inspired and motivated, but getting tips for bouncing back is always welcome, thank you Creative Block.