If you have a passion for being creative in any kind of way, you probably have noticed that it is difficult to maintain a steady flow of creation. Since we are not robots, it’s only understandable that even the most genius minds need to take a break and find new inspiration. If someone in the creative field ever told you, they never lack inspiration or never need to take a break, they either haven’t experienced it yet, or they lied.
Being creative is one of the most wonderful things. Without wanting to bump heads with anyone spiritual or religious, I believe creating can make us feel closer to an entity above. I may even go so far as to say, understand it better.
But the inability to make what you had in mind, the struggle of making an income from it, or the lack of inspiration, can make you feel pretty miserable. So, how do you go about finding inspiration?
In my experience of ten years, inspiration is a hungry monster that needs to be fed. And I cannot tell you how times I told anyone that wanted to hear it, ‘I don’t like to sketch’. It goes against my neurotic and perfectionistic character. I like my sketchbook to be filled with perfect drawings, or neatly organized small sketches that go well together on one page.
For this reason, I didn’t sketch much in the past years. Which is a shame. It is only this year, I have taken in the goal of having a sketchbook. A sketchbook is like a diary. It takes care of the need to ventilate, comprehend your view of the world and keep working without any pressure. In a way, a sketchbook is for an artist to keep sane. There is no need to ever show it to anyone. And if the thought of someone discovering your sketchbook frightens you, you can always plan for it to be burned in a large bonfire at the end of your life, as is my plan of action.
Buy a sketchbook and begin doodling today.
After finishing a big deadline, I take a step back. For one or a few days, I choose to do something different. Attend to people and errands I have neglected the last weeks. Then I return to the studio.
I organize, prepare new panels or canvases and start working. Right? Unfortanetely not. At least, not always. Sometimes I keep staring at my stretched canvas, hoping inspiration will come any minute.
In this case, I find myself gravitating towards a strict routine. I like to get up early, work out, eat healthy, get in the studio by 8 or 9am. Sketch, start something that may end being sanded down, eat lunch, get frustrated more, go for a walk, eat dinner, read on new subjects and start the next day in the same way.
Sometimes repetition may bring the breathing space for you mind to open to new ideas. For some people that might mean getting up early and working out, for others it means staying up late and reading 2 books a week. Find a routine that works for you.
As you may have spotted, I thrive on routines. Doing things more than once, will not only help you to get better at it, it will also build your confidence to keep going. You start to understand that even with your skillset, not every day is the same. Just begin drawing, painting, taking photos, writing, making music and you will see your dedication will pay off. With beginning you have done half the work. Just making a start trumps not having done anything at all.
If you are familiar with Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 habits of highly effective people, you will probably know his 7th habit: Sharpen the saw. He describes a man sawing down a tree and being quite exhausted. Another man asks him why he doesn’t take a break to sharpen his saw. ‘It would go much faster’, he suggests. The man holding the saw replies: ‘I don’t have time to sharpen the saw!’.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our work, projects, creative processes, that in hindsight we realize the last 30 minutes we have been smudging paint back and forth, taking photos of the same frame, or have been using backspace more than any other key on our keyboard.
In any creative process, it’s essential to take breaks. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not okay to take some time off.
Take your physical and emotional health into consideration. Read up on a subject you don’t gravitate toward, as it may bring you new insights. Talk to people around you. Go into nature and turn of your phone, even just for an hour. Meditate. Be alone with your thoughts, I promise if you do it regurlarly, new trains of thougts will come.
In line with the above, routines have a way of coming in circles. After the sketching, finding your routine, taking a break and beginning you may overflow with inspiration. Paint flies everywhere, your filefolder bursts with hundreds of photos and you work like you are possessed. Time seems to go so fast, you do not have time to eat or see any people. You feel invigorated! Nothing can take you away from doing the things you love to do. The next day you enter your work space and there it is again. What to make?
In order to make the circle round, lacking inspiration again is unavoidable. And you know what? You will get through it. You have done it before and you can do it again.
At the moment of writing this, I am in the middle of seeking inspiration myself. For this reason, I am writing this post, as a way to remind myself of how I have done things before. ‘Trust the process. You will get there again’, says the little angel on my shoulder. On the other side, there is the red, angry-looking fellow yelling: ‘Failure, failure, FAILURE!’ With careful aim, I flick him away with my fingers. Back to work.