It seems for most people “being Inspired” is criteria for being able to make art. Without it, nothing can happen. One can wait a very long time for inspiration to hit. And even if it does arrive, the lack of the right materials, or the right space, or enough time or … well, insert your own mantra.
Looking for Inspiration
Certainly, all those things are helpful. I have used those excuses myself, thinking that a creative act can only happen under certain circumstances. What I learned over time, though, is they are all great ways to procrastinate. It feels righteous to be able to say to yourself, or to others, “Well, I can’t work today. I’m tired; I feel down; I have other things, needs, worries (i.e., grocery shopping, doctors’ appointments, etc.). I just don’t feel inspired.”
The problem with excuses, even though they may be true, is they prevent you from accomplishing anything at all. Weeks, months, even years can go by. When you look back on the time that has passed, you suddenly realize that there’s nothing to show for it — except maybe a sketch or a small painting/sculpture/poem, or whatever your muse. That realization is pretty disheartening.
Time passes. The only antidote to procrastination is to do the work — now — even for a few minutes, no matter where you are. It’s not a matter of thinking about doing something. In fact, NOT thinking is probably the best course of action to take. People are pretty adept at thinking their way out of all sorts of things, even those things they feel deeply called to do.
Be Prepared for Creative Moments
So how do you set yourself up to do the work without having to wait for inspiration? My best suggestion is to keep a sketchbook, memo or sketch app on your cell phone (or iPad) with you whenever you are out and about. That way you can make notes, sketches or take pictures wherever you may be. Waiting in the doctor’s office? Make a sketch of the space, flower arrangement or the people waiting. Traveling? Sketch in the car, at the airport, in the plane or train. Not interested in any of that? Then draw your hand or foot, or the tile on the floor. Try to depict the texture of the carpet or a rock.
Just Do the Work
The point is: just do it. I have learned that I am inevitably engaged within 5-15 minutes of starting something, no matter what it is. And with that, comes inspiration. If I am not engaged within that time, then I give myself permission to put aside what I started. But even a small step, such as that, is a step forward in honing your craft. A lot of small steps eventually become good works, and 10-15 good works become a body of work, and a body of work becomes a show in a gallery.
Here’s to doing the work!