Apparently if you ask Neil Gaiman where ideas come from he might just say something like, "a little shop near Bognor Regis". For inspired creatives who produce consistently it seems to be something of a tiresome question. Hmm, must be hard for them. But what do us lesser mortals do?
Well, as far as I can see, the difference between consistent creative producers and those of us asking these sorts of questions is that the producers have figured out how to 'show up'.
You see it’s a bit like that witty comeback. You think of the best one liner - somewhere between a few hours and a few days later, don't you? You had to have the snarky encounter and then give your brain a bit of time to work on a suitable response. Same with writing, same with painting, or any creative work for that matter. It’s only when you engage yourself in the physical act of doing the creating that the wheels start turning.
Don't have great expectations of that first effort or two, however. Remember your comeback line? The first thing your brain came up with on the spot was probably something close to, "I know you are, but what am I?" Then, instantly recognising that some improvement was possible, your brain kept grinding away churning out pithy alternatives until, at last - perfection! (Too late of course, but a perfect reply, nonetheless.)
So the trick is to create. Want inspiration and ideas? Show up.
That's when you get inspired. And also improve your skills, problem solve, not to mention just plain old enjoying the process of creating. Writing, drawing, basket weaving - doesn’t matter. It applies across them all. Begin the process. Enjoy the process. Let the product begin its evolution into something better and better.
You see, it’s science. There's this thing called the Reticular Activating System in your brain. It sets out collecting bits of data from your world that match whatever it thinks you are looking for. If it is a witty comeback line then all of a sudden snippets of eavesdropped conversation, Seinfeld reruns and newspaper letters to the editor all seem to appear with some relevant insights, feeding into your creative problem solving machinery.
So it is with any other creation. The difference between composing a witty retort and writing a novel or painting a picture is simply a matter of scale.
But back to that question regarding the source of inspiration for a moment. The answer is you. Your world and everything you experience. Anything that touches your heart in any way.
You swim in a sea of inspiration. In fact, there is so much of it that you can't see the wood for the trees. Only when you begin - something - anything, do you give the Reticular Activating System its command to seek. Then like a bloodhound on a scent trail it is off, filtering and collecting salient pieces of your world to inspire your creation.
Now, I'm not saying showing up is easy. But it is better to have a more practical step to take as opposed to waiting for some sort of mystical holy grail of ideas to be revealed.
There are pitfalls, like of course, that inner critic poised to speak out as soon as creation begins, if not before. But whatever form your creative work takes, your job is to get started.
Put pen to blank page, apply fingertips to keyboard, clay to the wheel. Dip your brush in the paint and get it moving.
Over the years I have come up with a process to prime myself for any studio time. (I have inventively named this My Prime Process.) It is the best way I know of helping me to Show Up. It addresses nearly all my objections and gets me working. I do it first, before I start painting anything else or even writing. But I have also found that it serves so many other purposes.
Find your way to get started.
Then do it.
You never know where it might get you.
Looking for more tips about showing up in your art practice? I have an online class that’s got you covered - click here to find out more about it.