In creative fields, the artist relies on a certain amount of inspiration to produce art. Though working artists can get in a good routine to crank out results, the best output is created when we have a steady stream of inspiration. It seems obvious, but I’ve noticed many creative professionals struggling with this.
Inspiration is anything outside of the working routine. If the art—performance, composition, illustration, writing—is meant to communicate a message or convey an experience, we need something outside of the production process to effectively convey that concept. Inspiration can come from personal relationships, social concepts, or any kind of enriching activity. I typically think of inspiration as things that are fun, indulgent, or recreational, though inspiration can come from negative experiences as well.
However, artists are often perfectionists or extremists, and feel inclined to devote themselves entirely to their craft. This plan ultimately backfires as it becomes increasingly difficult to be productive without adequate artistic fuel. Without refilling our creative bucket, no amount of work is enough to create our best output.
The Necessity of Work
Professional artists know that success doesn’t come without considerable effort and perseverance. We don’t often need to remind creative professionals to buckle down and spend time on their art, but this problem is fairly common among amateurs who think inspiration alone should be enough. Those who have no trouble finding inspiration but lack focus often benefit from a structured approach—one where they’re expected to produce art with regularity, develop the art they produce, and ultimately see it through to completion.
Most artists at the professional level have had years of training and multiple degrees teaching them how to structure their work. They know how to practice, plan, problem-solve, and start new projects. So often they get into a cycle of intense production and detail work that little time is left for inspiration.
Without hard work, inspiration alone is not enough. But without inspiration, no amount of work will yield your best results.
I challenge all the artists I know to notice when you’re feeling overextended. Take a step away from your work process and find an activity that will recharge your batteries. You’ll be ready to create with greater focus and artistry, and go back to delivering your audience a powerful message—not one about how much you could use a nap.
Musicians and artists, what do you think? How do you balance work and inspiration, and how do you foster your creativity?