Inspiration is Dumb

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Image by William Ross

I was thinking today about my uncle who once told me that he paid an artist to make him a painting… two years prior to our conversation. Now, I understand a painting can take several years to work on, especially if you’re working in oils and have to wait significant periods of time before applying the next coat and whatnot, but no. My uncle has contacted this artist and the artist himself admitted that he hadn’t made significant progress on the painting because “he just wasn’t inspired.”

If I may backtrack a bit, it’s not inspiration itself that’s dumb. Inspiration is beautiful. It’s that harmonious, magical moment where you’re struck with the desire to create something. Few things are more beautiful than that. It’s waiting for inspiration that’s dumb. Unless you have unlimited leisure time to visit places like libraries or museums that give you said inspiration, chances are, inspiration doesn’t strike you often enough to the point where you’re producing as much art as you could.

You probably had several experiences in your life where you know you should probably develop a skill of some kind, make a video, write your novel, but the very idea of just sitting down and doing it is daunting. It’s rewarding once you actually worked on that project the results present themselves, but actually getting started, working on it, can be such a drag.

The unfortunate truth is that in order to create art, sometimes, you just have to sit down and do it.

I’ve been waking up at 4:30 am every weekday to spend thirty minutes on my painting. I hate it sometimes. There are times where I’m just too tired too not be confident enough to paint well, so instead, I focus on a simpler part of the painting, like the background or something that doesn’t require a whole lot of detail. I hate that stupid alarm that won’t turn off unless I get out of bed, then when I do, there’s no point in getting back to bed.  This has been happening for about a month now, and even though I don’t want to get up so early in the morning, art is so important, that’s it’s worth suffering for.

So, what should happen if you’re not inspired? I think more often than not, you’re not in a state  that allows for much inspiration. You may be stuck in a work routine that doesn’t allow much time to surround yourself with inspiration.

Instead of Waiting for Inspiration, Establish a “Why”

Inspiration is like your broke brother-in-law always promising to pay you back, but never doing so. Occasionally, Inspiration will rise to the challenge and make himself useful, but when you really need him for something, he’s just not there.

Instead of depending so much on this brother-in-law, you need to build your foundation through other means. Nietzsche said, “Any man who has a ‘Why’ can suffer any ‘How.'” Why are you doing art, exactly? Are you doing it for the beautiful results?  Or because you fear the fact that if you never do it, you will end up a failure? What’s your philosophy on art? Do you want to add beauty to this world, or do you have a message that needs sharing?

First and foremost, be willing to suffer.

Now that you’ve established your “Why,” it’s time to start suffering that “How.”

How important is art to you, really? Or anything for that matter? Are you willing to suffer for it? Are you willing to sacrifice some short time comfort for long-term results? Van Gogh, for example, suffered immensely for his art. You can argue he was crazy, but some things are worth going crazy for.

Be willing to sit down and do your art, even if you don’t want to in the moment. Accept that you hate it, but do it anyway. It’s better to fail, then not do it at all. Get up early, go for a ten minute walk first. If you’re not willing to love something enough to suffer for it, then what are you even doing?

Watch motivation and self improvement videos

Weirdly enough, I find watching workout motivation speeches on YouTube a really good source of non-inspiration. The same values echoed in those videos can be applied for art. The idea that you don’t want to work out can be applied to the fact that you don’t want to draw and paint, but you want the results, you want to build something to be proud of, only instead of your body, you’re building your portfolio.

So, my friends, go forth and suffer!

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