Inspiration. Creativity. Where do we find it?
I think the reason that question is so hard to answer for so many folks is because it is the wrong question. It isn’t an issue of knowing where to look for inspiration, as if one could find it in a specialty store at the local shopping center. Isn’t it better to ask how one lost inspiration in the first place? As if it were something that rolled out if your pocket and got lost behind the couch cushions, and waits there for you to retrieve it. Where did you last use your creativity?
Let’s see. You had it when you were a child, didn’t you? All children are creative in some way. You see it every time you buy them a present and they end up having more fun playing with the box it came in. You see it in the way children play. They pretend. They make believe. And we don’t think anything special about it because every child does it. So where does it go when a child grows up?
I think it goes into hiding.
Children want to be creative all the time. It is all they know. They are filling in the details of a world that is wider and deeper than they can imagine, yet their imagination makes it wider and deeper still. It is why they ask uncomfortable questions. And how do we react as loving, nurturing parents and adults? We tell them to pay attention. Stop daydreaming, woolgathering, being silly. Be still. Be quiet. Just when children come alive and get interesting, we try to turn them off and put them aside. Because we have a schedule, we make creativity a bad thing and we punish children for being inconveniently creative. And when that child becomes an adult, after we have beaten the imagination out if them, we turn around and ask them for new solutions. Creative, imaginative solutions. We’re doing it wrong.
So how do some people hold on to their creativity? Why are some adults pestered by their own private muse to create something new and imaginative? Why can some people pull more than lint and spare change from behind the couch cushions?
To be honest, some of us just never paid much attention to adults when we were kids. We didn’t take to the indoctrination, and the social pressures to conform. We were the misfits. The weirdos. After a while that becomes a badge of honor. Weirdos live in a more interesting world. There is still wonder, and new things to explore. To create.
So what do you do if you’re not weird? How do you open up your inner well of creativity after it has been successfully capped by your indoctrination into adulthood? How do you rediscover the wonder of playing with the box? To revive your inner weirdo?
Well, to start, you can daydream.
Daydreaming is all about envisioning things as they could be, not as they are. It is a skill, a creative skill. Like any other kind of skill it needs to be practiced. Exercised.
Creative people are that way because they have developed habits that let them practice their creativity. They take things to the next step. They find new and novel ways to look at things. The best of them do it just about all the time, even if they don’t always realize it.
Inspiration isn’t a matter of being blessed (or cursed) by a muse, but of looking at the world around you and seeing it in a different light. Seeing another way that it could be.
Inspiration isn’t magical in the least. Most ideas get thrown away. They don’t work out. The pieces don’t fit and it falls apart. Much more ends up in the trash than on the drawing board, the easel, or the word processor. Part of the creative process is considering these ideas to see if they are good or bad. Run with them a while and see how they work. It is good practice. While this idea may not be any good, it may plant a seed that makes some later idea workable.
Inspiration is everywhere. You’re soaking in it. Developing it is a lot of work. Everyone can be creative, but not everyone does because it is a lot of work. Yet for some reason creativity is often viewed as some kind of short cut to results. There are no short cuts. Just a lot of time and effort invested in finding another way to see the world.
It all starts with getting up off of that couch, picking up the cushions, and making a fort with them. There are new worlds in there. A new frontier with new challenges and dangers. It just need to be discovered. Just ask a child. They can show you.
54 Doc Coleman