A colleague of mine, Claudia, once told me that she had seen a very fashionable styled young man with a bag on a conference for people working in the creative industry. The bag of the young man had a text printed on it which said:
Looking for inspiration.
Of course there could be nothing behind it, and everybody has his/her own opinion about a person dressed like a bourgeois bohemian (BOBO), but I have noticed on several occasions that some people have this kind of attitude towards the phenomenon called “inspiration” the bag´s text described: They want to be creative, they want to do something inspiring, but they do not find this spark that fires up their process of creation. They wait an hour in front of their computers (some of the people I sometimes talk to told me that) and do not know what to do, they wait for inspiration to hit them. And when they are tired and finally go to bed they are frustrated, because they finally had freed up three hours for themselves and there was no fruition.
Why is that so?
When you are sitting in front of your machine, your typewriter, your canvas, your crochet hooks and you still do not know what you are going to do you already have lost. It is very probable that you will fight for at least one hour to decide what to do. Then you will argue with yourself whether you can finish the thing you want to create within the timeframe you have given yourself for another half an hour. Then you will make yourself some coffee to fire up your creative engine and after 45 minutes of rushing through some kind of work process your time will be already over. And you will end up angry with yourself, because you could not do something you really could have been proud of: The 3D animation was not as cool as it could have been, the piece of lyric was not as beautiful as it could have been, the painting was awful, the movie review was rushed and did not go as deeply as it could have gone.
So what was the mistake now?
You have to know beforehand what you want to do. Working with inspiration is often a luxury for those who have a fulltime job or other obligations. Of course there is – at some given point – this little spark: You cross the street because you have to go to an appointment and there stands this awesome dead, black, huge tree on the other side of the street nobody has cut down yet (aka a habitat for some mercenary critter). Or you see a four year old sweet girl with two pigtails who is running around like she had an atomic plant somewhere hidden in her pocket, never getting tired (aka an impish little sprite (fairy) from the woods hidden below the earth).
These are not made up examples here, these are actual things I have seen when I was walking around.
Ok, but now what’s the point?
The point is, that inspiration finds you when you are awaiting it least. You then have to find a way to safe this little spark, this idea. No matter how cool or stupid it might look like. One possibility to safe this spark is carrying a notebook with you wherever you go. Just find the method that fits your needs.
This idea grows while you are brushing your teeth, sitting in the metro, looking at the clouds or while you are fascinatedly staring at those cool vehicles that transport our garbage away – to this immense nest of ogres who built their fortress out of the stuff we don’t need anymore…
Then, in an early hour you have reserved for that, you think about a rough or more or less detailed master plan for the project you want to make based on your notes and ideas. Do not plan too much, as many things will manifest themselves on the way.
And once you know what you want to create and have a rough estimation of how long it will take you won’t have to think about what to do the next time you have managed to have some time for yourself and your own projects/stories/articles…
So the summary of this all is:
Don’t wait for inspiration to find you. It will find you – but probably in the most unspectacular locations. Safe the spark you had somewhere (e.g.: in a notebook), work it out a bit the following days and continue your work once you have some time left.
When you will sit there in front of your desk there will probably arise another mental barrier about which I will write about in my next post. Until then: Always look at the world with your second pair of eyes!
Feel free to share your thoughs about how you manage to be creative in the comments below! 🙂
I’ve never quite understood the whole “waiting for inspiration” thing. As you mentioned, inspiration is everywhere, and, at any given moment, I’ve probably got about five different things I want to be writing, and then I look up, and there’s four more things to add to the list.
Yeah, that’s right 🙂 I think the trick is not loosing the initial idea and just go for one of them and take it one step further 🙂
For me it’s a matter of always being open to inspiration, more proactively it’s like ‘tuning in’. And being ready to create whatever-it-is when I’ve tuned in to the right wavelength. It takes work and discipline and is similar to meditation, but staring at a blank page in my notebook never got me anywhere!
I think that you are right, owlwoman. Starting from some kind of creative vacuum without any idea what to do is not the best strategy. Instead, like you wrote, just being open to what happens when it happens might be more useful. 🙂
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