Inspiration and Creativity

by Barbara Martin

in Creative Juice, Motivation & Inspiration

Many creative people apparently believe or subscribe to the idea that “inspiration” must strike so that we can be creative, regardless of how motivated we may feel about our creative work.  Do you believe it?

More important:  How have you tested your belief?

What conditions make that spark of “inspiration” more likely to happen? Is inspiration the same as flow?

What is inspiring to your creativity? Do you always need it so you can create?

What if you don’t feel inspired? What have you tried as a jumpstart or a hack to inspiration and found useful in helping you be more creative? What has been less helpful? Counterproductive?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with inspiration as prerequisite for creativity.  Mainly I am asking because I’m not so sure I buy into the whole scenario. Should I?


Patty K August 31, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Here’s my 2 cents (Canadian)
Inspiration vs. Flow = not the same thing. I sometimes have great ideas, yet can’t do anything with them (mega frustrating). When both are present at the same time? Totally. Awesome. (And I *wish* I could figure out how to “make myself” get to this place or somehow create the right conditions.)

As for the “jumpstart” thing. I haven’t found anything that really works…other than waiting for the cycle to change. What *doesn’t* work is the whole sit down and get started, set a timer, map out a block of time, try to force it thing. I end up with crap. Writing that is unusable (and when I used to program – code that didn’t run). Ultimately a complete waste of time.

What does work (for me) is honouring my cycles. Staying with the creativity and flow for as long as it lasts (sometimes several days) and just letting go and doing something else when it’s not there. The former being much, much easier than the latter. :)

Thanks for asking. Looking forward to seeing what others have to say on this. :)

Emmanuelle Archer September 1, 2010 at 12:44 am

I think there’s a tendency to conflate inspiration and creation when we talk about “feeling creative” (don’t we really mean “being inspired” ?)

When creativity and inspiration are both present, that’s when I reach a state of flow. It is a wonderful thing to have happen, but I see it as a bonus, not as something I expect to experience regularly. It’s certainly not a prerequisite to creation; I wouldn’t get much done if it was!

The neat thing is that if I start creating (even uninspired stuff) and keep at it for long enough, inspiration will usually show up after a while – it’s like priming a pump.

What helps me be more inspired: changing gears. Going away and doing something totally different, if only for 10 minutes. And Shiva Nata, although inspiration tends to come the day after a good challenging practice.

When it comes to creating, though, I need structure and rituals. Things like sitting down with a cup of tea and lighting some incense send a signal to my brain that it’s time to roll up my sleeves and actually do the work. And like Patti said, trying to force it definitely doesn’t work…

Walter Hawn September 1, 2010 at 10:14 am

I think it was Somerset Maugham who told an inquiring mind: “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

He was, of course, saying that inspiration is the result of action. He found a chair, sat and began. From that, came creation.

Dave September 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I’ve only recently been in the great position of having set studio times to lock my self away and create. Every morning I generally start uninspired to do anything but drink my coffee. But I’ve developed a ritual of sharpening pencils, clearing my desk, cleaning my brushes, basically just doing some small action vaguely related to creating.

What I find is that sharpened pencils make me want to doodle, shitty doodles lead to OK doodles, these often lead to interesting ideas, which end in composition sketches, which end in me ‘coming to’ four hours later splattered in paint, beside a new painting that’s well under way.

Of course, some days I never get beyond shitty doodles, but they’re rarer than I thought they’d be. Most days, when my session’s finished, I end up carrying a half-drunk, cold coffee back upstairs.

One thing I know for certain (I’ve tried often enough), goofing off on the internet rarely leads to art in my case.

Natalie March 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Inspiration is important for starting a project, but flow which happens when you are focused and acessing the most creative parts of your mind is what will get it finished. Inspiration is rare, and flow won’t always just come, even with a deadline looming, but if I was “Inspired” every time I sat down to write, I’d get nothing done. Flow is about being in the right head space to write,and about using your skills to maximum effect. Inspiration only comes about every few years or so.

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