Where does inspiration to create come from? I’m not going to lie, my instinct is to shrug my shoulders and mumble, “Hell if I know.” But that’s not really the truth, or not really the whole truth. Getting inspired to write, or paint, or sew, or play around with my camera, or create some off the wall decorating project for a dinner party, or trying a new recipe comes from a fairly regular set of circumstances for me —
- Weather: raining is good, it sets the stage for melancholy and forces me to roam the house looking for something to do. Sunny is good, because I am solar-powered and bathing in the warm and the light charges me up and sends me looking for somewhere to expend that energy. Crisp air in the fall, soft molasses humidity in the summer. Grey is bad. Windy is bad. Snow and ice are bad. Scorching summer hot and dry is bad. Bad things make me cranky, and cranky me doesn’t want to do the work.
- New magazines (I subscribe to Southern Living, Martha Stewart, and Better Homes and Gardens) make me want to make MY house look like that, or to try that yummy looking featured recipe.
- Pinterest … is the tool of the devil. But the pictures are so pretty, and I never think about the #pinterestfail until it’s too late and I’m up to my elbows in hot glue and glitter or a 72-ingredient list of which I am missing ONE crucial item.
- Photo/post a day challenges like this one get me up and moving, and keep me prompted when my mind goes blank. It’s like having a homework assignment, and I was very good in school. Also, most of the challenges end up generating a social community of participants observing and commenting on each other’s work. That positive interaction keeps me energized and going.
- Mood: melancholy and a bit sad get me going creatively. When I’m super happy, I’m less inclined to engage in the self-reflection that tends to bring out my best work. Angry makes me want to run away and/or imbibe an adult beverage.
- Availability of supplies. Inspiration is 90% perspiration, isn’t that how the quote goes? When I have my tools out and ready (computer turned on, pattern printed out, clean brushes, kids engaged somewhere else and leaving me alone) I’m much more likely to dive in and just try something, to lay down paint or thread. If I have to take the time to find all my bits and pieces for a project, I end up frittering away my available working time and nothing gets completed.
- Music. You have to match your music to your project, your energy level, the lighting, your mood. Incongruous music can totally ruin the moment for me, destroy my motivation to work.
- Other people’s work. The Artist’s Market, Etsy, the Art Museum, the Sculpture Trail, a new indie coffee house band, a fresh local restaurant – creativity is contagious, and seeing other people getting their passion on makes me want to go build something.
- The right energy level. I have to have enough rest (mental tiredness is killer) and I can’t be exhausted already from physical expenditure (run days and painting days don’t mix well). The “I’m and introvert and I’ve had to deal with too many people today” recovery period is also a bad time for me.
- Coffee. ‘Nuf said. It’s not really inspiration, but it’s creativity fuel. Gotta have it.
Even with all that, you still have to sit down and do the work. Sometimes it’s more fun, sometimes it’s less. Sometimes I just have to get words on paper and out of my brain in order to function at work or on the task at hand. Sometimes I like what I makes, sometimes I just like that I made it. I try my best to enjoy the process without focusing on the outcome, and that keeps me from being so invested in whether it’s “good” or not. I am my own worst critic, and I can’t listen to that if I want to get better, be better. Because sometimes the moment is perfect, and the act of creation is perfect, and the end result so perfectly captures your intent that it’s hard to believe it came from your hands and not from the fairies. That moment, that high is what we’re chasing, but you can’t rely on those to keep you going. You have to find the drive within yourself to do the work when it’s not so easy, not so pleasant, not so pretty. Those moments build discipline into a creative practice that you can fall back on when you aren’t so inspired.