This thing called INSPIRATION... & why you SHOULDN'T chase it.
Updated: Sep 1, 2019
The concept of inspiration is nothing new. For those of us in creative fields especially, it's nothing by now if not cliché. Photographers, Filmmakers, Musicians, artists of any type really, seem to constantly look for (or "chase" if you will) sources of inspiration.
This is all well and good I suppose, but what exactly is 'Inspiration'?
By definition, Inspiration is:
"The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative."
Sounds great right?
Well yes, it is...to an extent.
See, the problem pops up about halfway through that definition... "stimulated". For many people (myself included) the feeling or "stimuli" that comes from having an idea (or, as I like to call it a "lightbulb moment") is amazing, and it's something I look forward to and actively pursue. The problem is pursuing it too much. It's like caffeine. Caffeine is great, but too much too often and you become dependent on it. Unable to function properly without it.
"But Paul..." I can already hear you typing (must be those MacBook butterfly keyboards...😂) "What's your point?"
A fair question, and I'll answer it.
As creative people we so often look for sources of inspiration to fuel our work, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, the issue lies in how much we pursue the aforementioned inspiration. If you're anything like me, you love spending waaaay too much time on Pinterest, Instagram & YouTube, looking at what other people are doing, what they're shooting, and how they go about the creative process. The problem I have, is that I spend so much time gathering ideas, that, by the end of the day I have neither the energy nor the time to actually go out and try the things I've seen, or put the ideas I've had into action. This creates a backlog of ideas, a long list of things you'd like to create, but don't have the energy to do. Suddenly, you're overwhelmed by the length of that list and you're already tired. Those ideas that you were so pumped about earlier, are now looking considerably less appealing. This leads to the thought process of "well, none of these ideas are very good. I need some new ones." And so the cycle repeats itself, culminating in you, making nothing, and feeling like a failure because you can't seem to get anything done. We burn ourselves out, just trying to come up with a reasonable idea in the first place. We're worn out before we even get to the "ok, let's shoot this" stage.
I subscribe to the "Document until you can create" school of thought. This way, I'm still working on things, keeping my skills sharp and (most importantly) getting paid. But I don't push for the mind-blowing level ideas nearly as hard as I used to. I do client work, shoot things I enjoy, and let most of the inspiration come to me. That way, when I do have those "Lightbulb Moments", they feel extra special, and I have the drive and energy to pursue the idea deeper. Because of this, when those flashes of inspiration do come, the final result is far better, and of a much higher quality because I had time, energy & a drive to put the best I had into the idea. I wasn't burned out beforehand.
Hopefully this small rant will help some of you who have been struggling with feeling like you can't create anymore!