As visual creatures, we take in so much new information each second of the day. So what happens to all of it? Some of that stored up data surfaces later as artistic inspiration and creativity, but most of this fizzles into the void. It’s not only how we store our inspiration that matters, but also how we use it. So after hours of scrolling through social media and interacting with other artists you’ve probably got a brain full of inspiration and a kick-ass attitude. So now what? No one likes a copycat and you’ll never be able to replicate someone exactly, so stop stressing about how to become your idols and learn what to do with all this pent up genius.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, even if you aren’t the creative type. Artists are known to pull muses from the world around them, but what about the more analytical types? There’s always someone or something around you to give you fresh ideas but too many people have trained their brain to only stay in their own lane, or maybe they haven’t trained themselves to look for inspiration at all. Try painting what your favorite song would look like. Apply the practices of your favorite company in a micro scale to your work life. Decorate your office, watch some damn TED talks, and try to give your brain something to work with throughout the day.
Imagine you took a different route to work today than you have every single day before. You’re not only adding to the mental map you’ve built in your head, you’re discovering what you wouldn’t have otherwise. Your brain needs creation fuel to widen its foundation of information that it will build ideas on, like your mental road map that you expanded by taking a different route to work. The more you seek outside of your routine each day, the more you’ll learn, and you might be surprised at the connections you start to make.
There’s plenty of debate on what constitutes as creativity and whether or not originality is finally dead for good. Regardless, inspiration from others is necessary for healthy growth. It just is. Someone out there is doing something bigger and better than you are and trust me when I say that I don’t mean for that to be discouraging. Whether they’re doing what you’re doing, what you want to be doing, or something completely out of your lane, you’ll find people that you want to emulate in yourself and your work. There’s so much to learn from the people around you but sometimes we get a little overload of inspiration and we try to become it all. What we forget sometimes is that you can learn from others without replicating their every move and that’s one of the most important skills you can learn.
Practice a little self love by learning when to put the inspiration away. If you’re constantly comparing yourself or your work to your inspiration then you will never be satisfied. If you have trouble learning when to stop nitpicking, try writing down your favorite things about your references and then never looking at them again. I’m serious. Take away whatever main elements you fell in love with and then cultivate those in your own way. Your brain needs some time to breathe in order to fuel your creativity. If you’re following someone else to a tee, how are you supposed to be satisfied with “your” work? You just might be onto something great, don’t let comparison kill that. Cherish your own spin on things because you’ll never be able to be successful as someone else.
Sometimes it’s ok to be unorganized. I have a big notebook full of screenshots, messy run-on notes, and random phrases all made into some kind of “word” bank that I can use when I want. If I’m needing a little creativity boost I’ll flip through everything I’ve collected and pick out the things that stand out the most and apply to my current projects. This breaks my routine up and get’s me thinking a little broader than I would normally, and best of all, I get the greatest elements of all my art inspiration meshed into something uniquely mine.
Yes, I’m asking you to make an inspiration board. You might think this seems corny or dated but wouldn’t you rather have a list of inspirations at your disposal instead of wandering Google whenever you need an idea? If you’re not the scrapbooking type, make folders on your phone for notes and photos so you can store your inspirations for later. They say you never know when a wave of genius will hit so capture as much as you can; it could come in handy later! (I’ll let you in on a secret, your bad ideas will make your good ideas look even better. Keep ‘em).
While you probably mostly remember the good things that inspire you it’s worthwhile to pick out the bad ones, too. Recognizing a bad behavior, habit, design, or anything in others can help you keep yourself in check. Identify weak links then flip through that brainstorm collection we talked about earlier and find a way to work something new into your Frankenstein of good ideas. And please, above all else, find the flaws in your favorites. Remember what I said about someone creating something bigger and better than you? You can be that person, too. Fine tune your art inspiration to fit your needs and run with it. Your environment, tools, style, and needs should all shape what becomes of what you see.
Remember that you’re capable of becoming just as great as what you’re looking up to if you give yourself enough credit to cultivate your ideas into growth. You can healthily look up to others without plagiarism, and you should! Inspiration is everywhere, now go and find it.