This is a guest post from Alex Soare.
As an artist, you wake up every single day just bursting with creative inspiration! You’ve got 3 brilliant ideas before your feet even hit the floor. Every time you step into your studio, you feel absolutely sure that today is the day that you’ll create your masterpiece.
That’s a dream world.
We may wish it were that way, but it couldn’t be further from the reality.
In truth, no artist is inspired every minute of every day… in fact, whole days, weeks and even months may go by where you feel devoid of the inspiration to create.
But that doesn’t mean that you stop creating. In fact, these inspiration droughts are when it’s most important that you work and push through the blocks. Here’s why:
There’s Power in the Routine
Painter Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” He’s right. Even people who love their jobs have days that they wake up and simply don’t feel like going in, but they do anyway. While you may not have a boss who requires you to punch in at a certain time, it’s still important that you stick to something of a schedule.
Your routines don’t have to be conventional or even adhere to standard working hours, but they should be consistent. Do what works for you, even if it’s unusual. Pulitzer-prize winning writer Michael Chabon says that he writes 5 nights a week from 10pm until 3am because that’s when he’s at his best.
You may not be proud of what you create every day, but the point is that you’re creating, and it’s that process that gives rise to the ideas and work that you are proud of. Put yourself in the right headspace and physical space to do your work and that’s half the battle. Even the best of the best swear by routines – the daily (and often strange) routines of artists like Picasso and Warhol are documented in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.
Excellence Isn’t a Place That You Live
If you have the idea that you’ll do amazing work every day, you’re easily your own worst enemy. There’s no worse deterrent to creativity and inspiration than the pressure to be perfect. If that’s your mindset, you’re almost sure to feel intimidated and blocked. It’s as if you have a horribly rude and snotty critic sitting on your shoulder, scoffing at every brush stroke you make. No big surprise, this does not result in your best artwork.
It has to be OK for you to sometimes create stuff that you kind of want to trash. You may not like it, but you have to make it OK or you may never create anything that you love. Unfortunately, there are few artists that can make magic every time they put paintbrush to paper. The way it usually works is that you have to slog through a bunch of mediocre stuff (likely learning a bit from every “eh” you utter) to arrive at that magic moment.
Blocks Beget Blocks
Everyone experiences creative blocks – you sit slumped in front of a blank canvas with a blank mind and you’d rather do just about anything than stay there and wallow in all that blankness. So you shut the door and take the day off. But the problem is that it’s a lot easier to do the same thing the next day… and the next and the next. If you don’t stare down the face of a creative block and best that sucker, a momentary lull in creating can turn into a full-blown slump.
Novelist John Updike, another Pulitzer winner, had this to say about the dangerous snowball effect of straying from your routine: “I’ve never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think that the pleasures of not writing are so great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again.”
The truth is that it’s hard to make yourself create every day, and often it feels a lot better to do nothing. But if you give into the block and let it push you away from your work, it gets stronger and bigger. The best way to keep it at bay is to just create. Go for a brisk walk, make a strong cup of coffee, turn the music up loud and make something…anything.
You Just Never Know…
Here’s the thing about creating great art: There’s no formula. You could create nothing of note on a day that you feel insanely inspired. Or you could end up doing something amazing on one of those days when you’re just messing around for the sake of it. If you wait to start working until you have a brilliant idea, you may be waiting for a very long time.
Oftentimes the brilliant idea strikes while you’re in the midst of creating; perhaps from a mistake or just a glimpse of something in your own work that you’ve never seen before. That’s the rub – something wonderful could very well result from pushing through a totally uninspired mood.
I realize that overcoming a lack of inspiration is easier said than done, but at least now you understand why it’s worth the effort. And if you find it challenging, know that you’re in good company because there are probably few artists in history who didn’t sometimes battle the creative block demons.
What sets apart the successful ones is that they created anyway.
Alex Soare is a creative professional who has battled the inspiration demons a time or two himself. He’s a professional opera singer as well as the founder of ArtRise, an online community for artists of all media. Members can network, collaborate and share their work with fellow artists all over the world. If you’d like to check it out and create a free profile, visit www.ArtRise.com.