This week I received an email from a most beautiful soul, asking if I would write about the topic of how to find inspiration when life is getting you down. I’m extremely empathetic and I take on others pain and joy very easily, and after reading her email, I cried for her. And if I can offer any words of advice that might be even 1% useful, well, that is how to contribute to our community.
The first thing that I think needs to be clarified about artistry or inspiration or even passion is that it does not have to be who we are. We are artists, we are creative thinkers, but we are so much more than the label “Artist” or “Photographer”. I have found one feeling that consistently crops up when I am going through a rough time, and that is anxiety; the anxiety that I have to create because I have stopped. The anxiety that if I let my grieving process take over, I will lose my artistic sensibilities.
Have you ever felt that way? As if the bad day you’re having, or month, or year, will be the thing that ends all sense of art in your life? I know I have. I tend to go through life creating regularly and moving through the motions of my normal routine. If I feel like creating, great. If I don’t, I don’t worry about it. But suddenly, when a bad day comes along, I feel guilty for not creating. It is a swift change in mindset that is neither healthy nor productive. Forcing yourself to create just for the sake of creating is, in all likelihood, not the best way to put your best work out there.
If you need to grieve, grieve. If you need to have a bad day, have it. If you need to step back from what you’re doing and let your life breathe a little bit, let it breathe. Sometimes artists need space. Sometimes life happens and there is nothing to do but to let yourself feel the emotion of it.
That said, there is always a time to get back up and do what you love doing. You might have forgotten how much you love it. You might not feel motivated to get back into it. You might not know when the right time is. I tend to have a good sense of these things when it comes to my personal emotions, but I didn’t always. When I started photography I often felt frantic. If I wasn’t creating every single day, I felt anxious. I felt as though I would never be able to take a good picture again. I felt as though I would be irrelevant and somehow fall off the artistic bandwagon.
How do I know if I am ready to jump back into finding inspiration and being motivated?
The answer is: If I can, from an outside perspective, understand the situation I am in – then I am ready.
If I can take a step back from my life and clearly see the bad that has happened, and insert good thoughts to combat that, I take that as a sign that I am ready to create again. Now, back to that email I received. How do I know that the person writing it is ready to create? Because she took the first step to find help. Does that mean that she is healed? No. But what it does mean is that she is ready to find new inspiration, and to be motivated with that.
I believe that anyone who seeks inspiration will find it. It might be hiding, it might not be the most obvious thing to be inspired by, but here is one thing that I believe in above all else: looking for inspiration is inspiring in itself.
Think about it: humans crave inspiration whether we know it or not. So to actually seek it; to understand that we need it; that means that we are in touch with ourselves enough to know that our imaginations need fuel. Once you understand that inspiration is food for the mind, you stop at nothing to find it.
And so – how is it found? I could give you a laundry list of ideas to work on – themes to challenge you and whatnot, but that is the kind of topical inspiration that will get you to that place of excitement, but might not sustain. What I want is to ask myself one basic question: What is perfect?
WHAT IS PERFECT? So simple to ask. And it can be hugely simple to answer. I don’t believe in universal perfection, only what we ourselves consider to be the best in this moment. So, what is perfect to you? You can answer that in any way you want. It could be the perfect human, the perfect location, the perfect setting, the perfect prop or color or emotion or feeling or food. Imagine it all. Go there.
So often what we love most, what we find to be perfection, is where we find inspiration naturally. For example, this is my PERFECT:
I am in the middle of a forest. The trees are twisted but tall and the forest floor is as soft as a blanket with the decayed debris from the trees. There is a pond just at the edge of my vision. Fog encircles me and the trees, and it is warm and wet like summer. I wear a blue dress that floats out magically as I walk. I am barefoot. I have a wreath of flowers braided into my hair. My family is all nearby but I am by myself, exploring, smelling the sap from the trees. There is a cottage in the distance, and I can see the start of a bridge where the water begins. I run to it.
That is my PERFECT. That is how I would escape if I could. That is the place that makes me happiest; the smells that make me happiest. The feelings that I love. The sights I adore. That is where my inspiration begins.
It is okay to think about happiness when bad things are happening. Tragedy and hardship so often make your PERFECT even more so because it gives context. When you go through the bad, you understand the good with even more fervor. There is a certain connection to everything good that happens. And sometimes those good things don’t happen. Sometimes we wait and wait for things to get better, and the circumstances just don’t change. I undoubtedly have hard times ahead; I can already see them. But I know one thing that I will work my hardest to not change:
I can find inspiration any time I look for it. And that inspiration causes motivation, and that motivation causes results, and those results are the culmination of my dreams spilled out into real life – achieved.
It is not always easy, but it can be done. Right now might not be the right time for you to find inspiration, but remember that it is always there. It never leaves. It is as constant and the air we breathe, and sometimes just as invisible, but always there. Will you take it?