Without inspiration, there is no art. But inspiration can be sporadic and mysterious. One never knows when it’s going to hit or what is going to cause it. Some say it’s sent from God, others say it’s spiritual openness that allows one to embrace each idea. I’ve even heard an artist refer to themselves reaching up and grabbing it out of the air. Each one of these theories contains the concept that the artist is just a vessel, completely relinquishing personal responsibility for the inspiration. The problem with that is often times inspiration comes from life experience and experience can only be interpreted and processed by the person going through it. So what if inspiration is a constant that is transferred throughout the world and tailored by experience? If I watch a television show and obtain an idea from it, then the inspiration that went from developing that TV show transfers to me through the idea I gained via watching it. Then, once I create my piece of art based off of my own personal experiences, it goes on to inspire someone else. Thus, creating a strain of individualistic inspiration throughout the world. But then the question still stands: where did it start and how?
I believe that inspiration comes from within. Everyone spends a lifetime learning and developing their personal character through unique experiences. If I go on a hike and look out from the mountain top at the beauty of the world, I put myself in a position to be inspired. Then, attaching my own ideals and thought process, that inspiration develops into something I can use to create a piece of art. So if one were to sit in an empty room devoid of all contact and experience, would inspiration exist? It’s an interesting question and a hard one to answer considering I don’t think it would be best to pull a Rapunzel and test that theory, but the question is important to pose anyway because if it truly is the work of God or a spiritual being, then it wouldn’t matter if one were locked away their entire lives, but I believe it does. If you want to be inspired, you need to put yourself in the way of inspiration. Go out and do something exciting or creative! Watch a TEDTalk that has to do with something in your field. Discover new music or television shows that spark some kind of emotions within you. Inspiration is fleeting so it’s important to do as much as one can to trigger it.
And then, when you do get struck with it, the question becomes: how do you sustain it? That’s the hardest part because inspiration and motivation are two very different things and if they aren’t blended correctly, an artist can have a difficult time creating. Motivation is your reason for why you do something. It’s that love you have for your craft or that message you’re so passionate about getting across, but sometimes when artistry gets hard, we lose that motivation, thus staggering our inspiration. In these times, I find it helpful to look towards someone else who is in that euphoric balancing state of motivation and inspiration. It could be a friend or a coworker, but for me it’s usually successful people who don’t want to be stagnant. The ones who strive to be better even after they garner success. Doing things like watching a bunch of Casey Neistat videos or listening to podcasts put on by my favorite artists or runners are what reignite my motivation so that when inspiration strikes, I have the drive to convert it into art. Fear can also be a great motivator. When one is afraid to fail because they have put so much work into their art or have made irreconcilable sacrifices for it, then motivation becomes the desperate need to succeed. Fear is going to be present no matter what and it can either make you or break you. It’s how you harness it that makes all the difference.
Take a minute to think back on what you were doing when inspiration hit and how you were able to take it and turn it into something amazing. Maybe it occurred at a strange time because it was building up from experience to experience without your knowledge until a final piece of the puzzle clicked in and you were able to get that moment of clarity. Maybe life took you by surprise one day and it was your motivation that drove your inspiration forward because you felt you needed to turn your emotions into something tangible. No matter how it came across or what you did to make your art a reality, and no matter what you believe the truth is about where all of this inspiration comes from, know that unique ideas are developed because each person has a unique living experience. Two people might be taking the same train at the same time on their way to work, but one may be dealing with the stranger who has fallen asleep on her shoulder while the other is wrapped up in her own mind, taking the time to solve the problems from the previous day. We’re all sharing these life experiences, but in our own ways and that’s the influence one has on their personal inspiration.