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Creativity and Inspiration

Creativity is work, resourcefulness and the craft itself. Inspiration is the lightbulb, the mental stimulation that instigates a person to move a certain way.

Creativity and inspiration often go hand in hand with each other. However, what the majority of people don’t realize is one isn’t necessary for the other.

A person can be creative without that special push in the beginning of their process. And at the same time, an artist can be inspired and not do anything about it.

Creativity Without Inspiration

People often think that the measure of a man’s creative capabilities is directly proportional to his daily dose of inspiration. That’s not really the case. A creative person need not be inspired to start creating. Creativity is all about the production, the routine, the job or the overt act of making something out of nothing.

But how do people maintain their creativity without inspiration?

Most people don’t. Most people get tired of the process and treat their creative impulses as a burden they have to carry. Most of the time, when creators aren’t inspired, they give up. They’d leave their work on a corner to collect dust.

So can we conclude that great artists like Da Vinci are always inspired?

We can’t say for sure. Although Leonardo da Vinci lived in the era of the Renaissance — a time full of inspiration and ideas, we can not be certain that he, every time he picked up the brush, was inspired. It was even confirmed that most of his work didn’t see the light of day.

What then is the difference between great artists like Da Vinci and the modern day painter?

Resilience. Da Vinci was an expert of many things, but the one thing he mastered most was the concept of creativity as a form of discipline. To be creative is easy. To stay creative is the most difficult thing in the world.

“Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

Think about it this way: falling in love with something is easy. It’s staying in love that’s hard. The hyped up infatuating promise of fun and excitement is what lures people in. But when it’s time to actually get some work done, most of us quit.

Being a creative person is glamorous from afar — and people wonder what it takes to be a great artist. But if we take away the glamour, the promise of self-satisfaction and the misconception people have about the process, you’re left with one thing: Work. That’s what it means to be creative. To continue painting until you finish it.

Discipline is the key to creativity. If you think that everything successful artists touch turns to gold, you’re wrong. For every successful piece of art, there are ten creations that don’t see the light of day.

Every creative person encounters a phase where they lose their sense of self-belief. No one is an exception. This phase usually happens when you just started to do what you do. This period where artists feel lost can last for a long time. Years even.

And the only way out of that phase is to remember why you started working in the first place. Remember that everybody is moving at their own pace. Remember what made you get out of bed in the morning. Remember what made you fall in love in the first place.

“Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” - Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J.

Inspiration Without Creativity

What’s the most important tool modern day creators have? It’s not their instruments, their brushes, their paint, or their color charts. It’s their phones.

Why? It all has to do with inspiration.

If we dissect inspiration to its core, we can find that its two main characteristics are being sudden, and fleeting. In other words, inspiration is an uncontrollable external stimulation.

It is sudden because most of us can not anticipate inspiration. It can not originate from our own thoughts. It is fleeting because we can’t control how long it lasts.

Inspiration, first and foremost, is nothing if we don’t capitalize on its mental stimulation. An idea does not transpire on its own. With that in mind, inspiration, being the elusive high all artists want, should be taken advantage of right away. If not, then it’s gone.

Again, inspiration is fleeting — and we can’t get it back.

Hence our phones.

In this modern era, our phones can do everything. Capture images, record videos or sound, be a notebook — you name it. It’s all there.

What does it have to do with inspiration?

Most of us don’t have the luxury of time. Moreover, inspiration doesn't really give you the privilege of choosing the place where you get inspired.

With that being said, if you’re a musician and you hear a melody in your head, sing it to your phone. If you’re a writer who had an idea about a story, write down the premise on your phone. If you're a painter who saw something worthy of painting, take a photo with your phone.

We do not have any control of what inspires us — we can’t make a moment last more than it already is. What we can do is to capitalize on the idea and find the will to make it real.

Inspiration is synonymous to opportunity. When the door comes knocking, you better open it — or you’ll miss it.

How to be more inspired

When you’re inspired, you find yourself to be productive, creative and satisfied in the end. But that’s vague to begin with. What makes inspired people inspired?

According to Todd Thrasher and Andrew Elliot’s study of inspiration, Either you can be inspired by something or you can be inspired to do something. Furthermore, they concluded that for someone to be genuinely inspired, you need both.

“You can be inspired by something” means to derive motivation from that thing or person. That object that inspires you ultimately gives you the will to carry on with your tasks. “Being inspired to do something” is different. It involves more of changing the intention of the person.

The difference between the former and the latter is that the latter is directly linked to the instigation of your actions. In other words, you are encouraged to act in a certain way. To put it more bluntly, when you’re inspired to do something, the intangible forces of inspiration intrude your mind and force you to a certain extent.

According to Thrasher and Elliot, the qualities of inspiration are as follows:

1. Evocation

Evocation is the act of invoking a thought or entity in your mind. This process of evoking is spontaneous and done without conscious control.

Because of its unprompted nature, inspiration is impossible to simulate. Many have tried, many have failed

2. Approach Motivation

This characteristic of inspiration is the persuasiveness of the same. When you’re inspired to an extent, you feel motivated to make your vision real right that second. That feeling of wanting to put in the effort makes the inspired person forget about the tediousness of the work itself.

3. Transcendence

Inspiration is kind of like a high for people. It’s that cup of coffee you crave for every morning to wake you up. It’s the endorphins rushing to your brain when you hear good news. It’s the equivalent of a working-man’s runner’s high.

When you’re inspired, you get a sense of clarity and single mindedness — all your problems are out of your head and you’re in that almost unconscious creative flow.

Inspiration, for the most part, is a separate entity from the human mind and there are a lot of factors as to why a person gets inspired. However, researchers found that inspiration is directly associated with the openness of a person and his work mastery.

For instance, in painting, the artist is the one who will decide on what he/she will paint. If the artist does not have an open mind and keen eye, he won’t have anything good to paint.

So how then do we manipulate inspiration?

We can’t. As I mentioned before, one characteristic of inspiration is that it is spontaneous and out of our control. Hence, we can’t force it in our minds.

With that being said, there are a few things we can do to be in that environment of inspiration.

1. Don’t pressure yourself

Stress follows pressure. If you force yourself to be inspired, you’ll end up focusing on the wrong thing. Inspiration is kind of serendipitous in the first place and it can’t be helped. Our efforts should be focused more towards the creativity part of the spectrum.

As I’ve mentioned before, inspiration is unrehearsed — forging it into existence defeats its definition.

2. Have a good mentality

Inspiration has an intrusive nature. With that in mind, it is easier to reject than to accept.

People with good mentalities and an optimistic personality have a better chance to be inspired. If we keep our self esteem high enough, the easier it will be to accept any form of inspiration.

3. Do something else

Focusing on something tedious can be exhausting. Like in painting, being too close to the canvas not only strains your eyes, but also hinders you from seeing things at a different angle.

Taking a break from something can lead to inspiration. If we take one step back from time to time, we’ll eventually take two steps forward.

Doing something related to our tasks gives us the opportunity to rest and at the same time, it gives us a kind of perspective as to where we are.

The same goes for when we take the time to appreciate other people’s work. Don’t get me wrong, comparing yourself to others may constrain your creativity. However, if we’re genuinely open to the thought that creativity is not a competition, then there will be a greater chance of being inspired.

4. Develop your skills

As I’ve mentioned before, you can do more when you’re better at something.

Take painting for example. There are a lot of means that meet up at the same end. If we learn enough of those methods, we’ll find new things — nuances that can spark an interest or even motivate our minds.

If we put in more effort, we’re more likely to stumble upon inspiration.

Trash and Elliot also found that work mastery, in most cases, precede inspiration. This is true, because productivity-wise, we can’t wait for inspiration to come.


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