A snow leopard rock I painted for my own collection, sitting on a rock outside.
While I didn’t do much in the artistic category this week, I did work on the book I am writing, which is in itself another sort of artistic venture. I started on this story late in 2008 while in college, and have been writing and rewriting the story ever since. The initial inspiration to write this particular story was very strong, but how does one keep the inspiration going past that? After six years of working on a project, how do you muster the inspiration to stay excited about it? Somehow, I do. It’s a problem that can also apply to just about anything in life–projects, training, working on your dream job. So here are a few things I do that help me stay inspired and keep working at it.
Look at Other Peoples’ Works
I painted this portrait of one of my mom's corgi dogs on a tray for her for Christmas.
For my writing, this means I go and read other books. I feel the emotions of the characters, explore their worlds, and get excited about exploring my own world and characters. I want mine to be epic, too; I want my words to envoke emotions and make the reader root for the characters. This works for other mediums as well. Find an artist whose work you like and look at their pieces. Listen to your favorite musicians, read poetry, go through others’ online portfolios. See the epic things other people are doing and know that you can do something like that too.
Listen to Music
I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks–the instrumental scores, that is–and imagine my own movie for the music to go to. Sometimes I find pieces that match a scene in my book, sometimes I just enjoy the emotional range that music can inspire. Sometimes I listen to music while writing, sometimes I just focus on the music. Listening also helps while I paint or draw, so long as it’s non-vocal, as it gives my excess mind something to do while the rest of my mind paints. It keeps me from getting bored and losing the inspiration to work.
Seek Visial Inspiration
I have boards on Pinterest of collected pictures and photographs that strike my imagination, castles or mountains or unusual animals, people with eyes that hold stories and skies that bear fair warning. These pictures can give a sense of awe that make me want to explore them, to find the stories, to weather the storms. As a very visual person, seeing things often boosts my imagination, and I begin to build on the seen and add other details. I also have a board that is labeled “Story Inspiration” with scenes that seem to hold a story, and as far as the saying goes, they are worth more a thousand words.
Sometimes when I lack the inspiration to write, I draw my characters instead. This is a pen and pencil drawing of my chimera character's center head.
Sometimes I find that a lack of inspiration is my body’s way of telling me that I need to get out and do something active. Get out into the sunshine, go socialize and otherwise get some experiences to add to my imagination’s toolbox. It’s been especially sunny recently, and I spent a good part of the day out in it yesterday with a friend. It was wonderful. Sometimes your brain just needs a rest. On the other hand, sometimes I take my project to another medium–in this case, I take the characters from my story and draw them. It helps me get away from the main activity but still keeps me focused on the concept, and once I’m done I feel inspired again to go write about what I’ve just drawn.
Find a Like-Minded Friend
Both of my best friends are also writers, and I find there is very little that’s more inspiring than talking stories with those friends. After hashing out details and throwing ideas back and forth and explaining our stories and characters and concepts to each other, we are both completely pumped to go and work on our stories. Also, it’s a great way to grow and improve, as they may see things you don’t, or have suggestions you may never have thought of. It’s one of my favorite means of inspiration.
Finally, Remember that Inspiration Isn’t Everything
Inspiration is awesome. Just think of the word: Inspiration. The word describes itself, being an inspirational word. We love it. It’s catchy. But it isn’t everything.
This is the latest rock I've started painting. Painting is a lot of work.
Art is hard work. It can be grueling. Unpleasant. Rewarding, yes, but no less hard than other human endeavors. Inspiration definitely helps us get through that work and make it seem more like fun, but there will be times when inspiration is just not forthcoming, but the project still lays unfinished. During those times we just have to keep plugging away at it, and know that the finished piece will be worth it. If nothing else, you’ll have a finished piece, and that in itself is an accomplishment worth being proud of. Some days I feel discouraged, like my writing is horrible and nothing good will come of it, and I have absolutely no inspiration to cheer me forward despite my efforts. But I know that the inspiration was once there, and that it will most likely be back, so I keep working. It will be worth it.
So if you’re lacking inspiration, give some of these things a try. They’ve worked for me, at least. I wish you the best of luck!