This blog was originally written and published by me on the blog of The Hatch, on December 28th, 2016. View the original post here.
Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes, it hits you out of nowhere; in the shower, while you’re driving, or while you’re trying to fall asleep. And it’s all you can do to get the new amazing idea down on paper because your heart and mind are racing with the overwhelming excitement of it all.
Other times you sit for hours and stare at a bank piece of paper…. just waiting for all the ideas you had three days ago to come back and present themselves articulately so you can write, paint, draw, or whatever your chosen medium is. As a lifelong artist just starting out on a more full time and serious creative entrepreneurial journey, never has this been more of a problem for me.
Luckily, other creatives have gone before me, and from reading their works and listening to their talks (shoutout to Liz Gilbert, Neil Gaiman, and JK Rowling especially), I have learned that there are a few things I can always fall back on when I need a little help chasing down that fleeting wonderful moment that is inspiration.
#1- Find a story. There is nothing more inspiring to me than a story. Books, poems, songs, short stories, long novels, folk tales, fairy tales. Stories of all kinds are the most inspiring things to me.
I have been a bookworm all my life and have always been interested in “nerdy” things and stories like Alice in Wonderland and Doctor Who. I am particularly interested in what are usually considered “children’s” fantasy stories: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid. I believe that these types of stories are relevant for everyone not only because they tell truths of the human condition which resonate with us all, but also because they tell them in beautiful ways that really capture our imaginations and can be understood by everyone. To paraphrase what GK Chesterton once said, fairytales are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. And there is something immensely powerful and magical in that.
#2- Get myself to the sea or to the stars. Nature in general is always a great revival and refresher for the soul, especially in our fast paced, glorification-of-busy lives. I think to some degree we are all suffering from perpetual burnout, and nothing has ever been a better cure for that than to just put down our phones and get outside and present with the physical world and our bodies. For me though, the water and the stars are always especially inspiring. There is something so truly awe-inspiring, so universal, so amazing, about standing and just watching the awesome power of the ocean, or watching the endless glittering dance of the stars. It always makes me feel both immensely alive and great, and immensely humbled and tiny all at the same time. These two great natural wonders always put everything in perspective and help me to remember what is truly important.
#3- Ordinary people living extraordinary lives in a hundred little ways are a huge inspiration to me as well. Maybe this is just “stories” in a different way, but people who are passionate, from an amazing biopic about Walt Disney, to the woman who lives down the street and lives for her beautiful garden, never cease to amaze me. The human spirit is just so inspiring. The best example of this is my own Grandfather, who was the single most inspiring person I have ever personally known. An Armenian born in Jerusalem, and raised in abject poverty, he made his way out of that life, came to America, and built a remarkable life for himself, creating a family legacy of grace, determination, curiosity, love, and laughter. By his own example, he taught his family that it matters not where or what someone is born, but who they grow to be. I would truly not be the person I am today without my Grandpa’s fine example, and for that I will always be grateful and inspired.
#4- Speaking of being indebted to others, I truly believe that creative collaboration/brainstorming is one of the most inspiring things anyone can do. And you don’t actually have to be in the same room to creatively collaborate. Books allow us to collaborate, in a sense, with storytellers and inspiring people who lived halfway around the world a hundred years ago, but I still consider that a collaboration of sorts, because it is a meeting of equal minds, and results in a new blending of ideas that can produce new exciting things. Which is truly a little magical, when you think about it. But it doesn’t even have to be as esoteric as that. The digital age allows us to connect to amazing artists all around the world with the click of a button. Pinterest, for example, is flooded with truly astoundingly beautiful art. And if I am ever in a particular creative pickle, it is the first place I look to for instant inspiration. Just being surrounded by other creative ideas and beautiful artwork, whether in a museum, a bookstore, a gallery, or on Pinterest, I find myself instantly refreshed, inspired, and in awe.
#5- My final inspiration (and this is a new lesson that I recently had to learn), comes in the form of meditation and/or yoga, which is also essentially just prayer. Taking time to deliberately switch OFF and recharge, is so important that I could never stress it enough. And it is so much harder and so much more rewarding than it sounds. It is a constant practice and lesson of balance, and I’m certain it is something I will have to consciously work on for the rest of my life. But, when you think about it, unless you slow down sometimes, those moments of inspiration can never truly find you. Sometimes you have to slow down, be still, and give up on chasing the ideas, to let them come to you. This exact principle explains why those most brilliant ideas hit you just as you are drifting off to sleep, or while you are in the shower or driving on a long trip, because in those moments your brain is relaxed; and in that relaxation and stillness, inspiration has the space to come rushing in.
So there you have it: Stories, nature, ordinary people, other art, and being still. I guess when you boil it down, what I am really inspired by is anything that is wondrous, and curious, and beautiful. Those are the stories that I love to hear and discover. And as a visual storyteller, these are the stories that I love to tell.