Finding inspiration, in my experience, is more about creating a moment in which you do not have to search, not have to find. Letting go of the conscious want of accomplishing, creating a moment so free that it can be inspired.
It is hard to make room for our intangible whispers with all the noise, worries, and down to earth daily matters. I, for one, battle a humbleness bordering on self-abasement. A sense, an all-destructive wave, of the uselessness of my endeavor. When the wave hits, everything is an insurmountable obstacle: my talent, or lack thereof, my education, my upbringing, my age, myself. However, whenever I manage to silence the silencing thoughts, I end up in a sphere of joy and amazed at the life of my little people, staring back at me on the page. The process itself, as often described by artists, of the pen touching the paper, that trance-like experience of only focusing on the one line, the whole body, mind and heart fully extended toward an unreachable ideal has few equals. And it is that feeling that I search for, the freedom offered by the surrender of the will, rather than the tired notion of inspiration as this improbable stroke of genius that I have to somehow summon into existence in order to solve all blocks. So how do we create that moment? How do we open the creative doors? Here are a few of my personal tips.
Opening up, looking out.
A few things help. The other arts mainly. They come to the rescue at once and graciously lend themselves as vehicles for my whispers to rise. Music is very generous to me. The voices and instruments allow me to suspend the constant flow of thoughts and taste the instant. It opens my eyes to my surroundings, and suddenly an idea emerges. At one point, I only can think about that drawing, that feeling I want to splash on the page, a face, an attitude. Going to a show or an exhibit can spark an idea, being amazed at someone else's achievement is therapeutic because it reinforces the idea of community. Other people are creating, other people have fought creative blocks in order to put their work together and display it for the public's eyes. I admire the technique, originality, concept that others have investigated. I then get home rejuvenated and full of hope at what I can do in turn.
A book or a movie spark a visual story. I get enamored with color, lines, lighting, a face, or an attitude. A word, an expression can create a narrative in my head that finds its way onto my sketchbook later on.
Walking, thinking, drawing.
I consider myself very lucky to live in a city where I can walk a lot. I walk everyday at least 30 minutes, often much more. By any weather, any temperature, rain or shine. These walks, whether their goal is to bring me to another physical location or are simply taken to clear my head, offer me the opportunity to let the thoughts flow, see other people, look at buildings, trees, a paper crumpled on the pavement; and have a moment to myself where I am not looking at my phone, not talking to someone, not involved in the daily reality. It is also a physical activity that tires the body, uses up some of my energy, which in turn creates a real pleasure when I can rest at my desk, rid of any restlessness, but full of pictures from the world around me.
Travelling outside of self.
Traveling is also a great way to find and renew inspiration. It is wonderful to be able to discover a far away destination and marvel in the various new flavors, tastes and smells. But traveling doesn't necessarily have to mean going far away, or involving a great deal of planning or money because it is at its core simply about changing environments, getting out of our comfort zone. Maybe it is going to a new neighborhood we haven't passed by in a while, spending the weekend away or visiting a friend in the country (or the city!). Anything that stimulate our senses and help us see the world anew is a welcome shake up. Traveling also often faces us with an endless list of uncomfortable situations (forgot my toothbrush, mosquitos everywhere, foreign language, strange people, miscommunication, unfamiliar surroundings, maps and plans...) which can turn into comical skits, if we are open to see the humour in it. It is great food for thoughts and invaluable material for artists. And when we come back to our dens, they also feel a little bit different. Traveling puts into perspective our usual here and now and helps us reframe and reimagine it.
Letting go of expectations.
Most often than not, our inspiration, our ideas, are killed in the shell by our impossible expectations. Before even starting the work, we think of how it might be received, we wonder "Is it marketable? Will people be interested in it? Can this land me an agent?". We question whether it will fit within our current project or portfolio, whether that is something we "should be doing right now", and a number of other judgments disguised as questions. And the difference lies there. Asking ourselves thoughtful questions which prompt us to dig deeper into our motivations, to develop further the subject at hands, to question our practice or to do more research will enhance the art by adding background to it and a deeper meaning. But, many of the questions we are asking ourselves are really geared toward guessing the probability of achieving a specific result: Success. Before we even start the work, we are putting it on a scale, judging it, weighting it, measuring it, comparing it to our expectations, trying to see if it will fit in that last box we need to fill before we finally achieve our current definition of "success", which can be anything from monetary reward to acceptance of peers. But it is not fair to the work, and not fair to us as artists, because we are limiting what we are capable of doing by only trusting our realistic reasoning, when our subconscious and inspiration can take us so much farther than we ever imagined. We often times sabotage ourselves this way almost unconsciously, our society being so intrinsically built on the premise of return on investment that the thought of achieving results with our work seem perfectly justified.
And don't get me wrong, it is. Putting together business plans, woking on getting more exposure, finding new contracts, getting in touch with agents and clients, finding ways to make more money are all very important tasks that need to be done and taken seriously, but the truth is that there is no need for a business plan if there is no material to show and sell. The moment of creation is the single most important time in an artistic career because without the content, without what we create, there is no business, there is no success, there is no glory, there's only the hope that someone will "see our potential". It is only by putting this potential to work, by finding inspiration that we can create and that is why nurturing what triggers our creative impulses is of utmost importance for artists wanting to have a long successful career.