Shop Talk

Avoiding the Inspiration Trap

The Inspiration Trap will leave you sitting around for days, weeks, waiting for a fleeting moment of clarity that may turn out to be rubbish in the end.

It seems nearly impossible to discuss art without the topic of inspiration coming up. Whether you’re a painter, sculptor, digital artist, illustrator, writer, director, actor, dancer or any other creative professional, it’s almost certain that you have been asked at one time or another what inspires you.

Sometimes these questions can be answered by amazing anecdotes about foreign travels, dramatic personal experiences, or the desire to contribute to a cause that’s near and dear. More often, the inspiration question can be answered simply: a song, a landscape, you just wanted to draw something for your mother.

Yet no matter how fantastical your life is or how amazing your ability to draw from even the smallest things in life, inevitably there will be a day when the inspiration just doesn’t come to you. Every artist goes through slumps. Slumps can last days, weeks, months, even years. These slumps are a product of the Inspiration Trap.

"Beneath the Ice" by gingerkelly

The Inspiration Trap is the false idea put into the minds of creative people that everything good must come from some moment of enlightenment or ecstasy that then leads to the creation of a brilliant piece of art. It’s the idea that without this moment, we are unable to create anything worthwhile. The Inspiration Trap is born out of a romanticized notion of what it is to be an artist: someone who eats, sleeps, breathes, and bleeds for finding universal human truth at every corner. However, things rarely work out that way. How often have you felt a moment of inspiration, one that seems life changing, only to have it flee as soon as you sit down to work? Or discovered that idea that seemed like sheer brilliance when you started isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be halfway through a piece? These are normal experiences for all creative individuals; things rarely turn out as they are in our minds. Sometimes, they’re worse. Sometimes, with a little luck, they turn out beyond our wildest imagination.

This is why it’s crucial to avoid the Inspiration Trap. The Inspiration Trap will leave you sitting around for days, weeks, waiting for a fleeting moment of clarity that may turn out to be rubbish in the end. There is one simple solution to beating the Inspiration Trap: sit your butt down every day and work on something. Even if you cannot bring yourself to do more than splatter paint randomly on a piece of paper or scribble like you did as a child, the act of creating something is better than doing nothing at all. After all, who knows what those splatters and scribbles may become by the time you’re finished.

The reality of art is that you cannot sit around waiting for inspiration to come to you – you have to chase it by constantly creating. Don’t let inspiration trap you; go trap yourself some inspiration.

Note: The writer would like to share that she came up with the idea to do an article about the problem with inspiration weeks ago. She then spent weeks agonizing over how to begin it, starting and stopping several times, and eventually simply sitting down and forcing herself to write the darn thing. It was during the latter process that she came up with the concept of the Inspiration Trap, thus proving her own theory. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

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