Updated: Apr 21, 2018
How to fan your creative spark into flame!
Does it seem that every day of your life gets busier and busier no matter how many things you get done? I tell myself all the time, “when this project is done next week, you’ll have some extra time to relax and brainstorm new ideas” But it never happens. For instance, my husband and I often reassured ourselves that our lives would be less busy after our wedding since we wont have the wedding to do’s on top of our regular schedule. “We’ll have lots of down time!” we used to say. While that was true to an extent, we are probably just as busy, if not busier now. Working overtime hours, keeping up with business growth, family activities, and daily chores. Once an opening occurs on my calendar it is immediately filled with other work, activity, or event. And then finally having to rearrange my schedule because of unexpected visitors, or last minute meetings it’s a wonder I get anything done! Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not complaining. We have a beautiful life and I know for sure I’m not the busiest person on the planet. I simply realize that that no matter how much work I finish, life always seems to be busy.
So, where in this crazy life do I find time and sources to fuel my creativity? Where do I find minutes to turn that creative spark into a creative flame? I am a huge fan of using online and social media to become more ‘inspired' and to motivate me. I turn to these sources because there is a plethora of inspirational media out there! Immediately, it’s available at the momentary click of a computer key. Endless streams of videos, music, pictures, and ideas flow out of the computer screen into my mind entertaining that creative spark. It’s a creative persons dream! At least, that’s how it appears.
The truth is, part of why I feel so busy is because these digital sites hurt me more than help me. While there are many sources of inspiration, digital sources like Facebook and Pinterest divide my attention instead of honing it, and make my work, well, less original. I admit it! Every time I get on Facebook, I immediately waste time scrolling through meaningless posts from pages that are trying to get my likes, watching videos of excessively fluffy cats, and giggling at sarcastic memes. I love seeing updates from my friends and family, but intermixed into that is so much content that I totally forget what my original purpose of being on there in the first place is! It’s less inspirational or productive and more like…
I get distracted similarly with Pinterest but it goes a little deeper than the example above. Instead, I'm often looking for images to inspire my artwork. My experience ends up being more “I like that painting so I’ll make one similar to it” instead of producing something more committed to the message, style and medium that my artwork is supposed to show. As an artist, I don’t want my artwork to be like any other persons work and it’s almost as if using the media on these sites creates something that is less ‘me.’
For example, in college I used to refer to technology for sources of inspiration that fueled my creativity. In my senior year, I was required to create eight original pieces of artwork for a professional show in the spring. One of our assignments was to pick an artist and implement their style into our artwork. Something I took note of was this piece was reviewed by my peers as weak compared to my other works. They were correct. There were a few reasons why it wasn’t as strong of a piece, but when analyzing the difference between my “strong” and “weak” pieces, I realized a large part of their review was the lack of creative originality. It didn’t fit with the theme I had chosen. It was too different from my style to communicate the message I had chosen my artwork to emanate. It wasn’t clearly creative.
So I guess the true questions are, where can I the find time to be creative without social media? Where in the rush do I find it in me to actually stop and think about what I want my life, art, and person to be? How do I overcome the weight of technological influences and find inspirational sources unique to my person?
It is in the act of being quiet.
Ironically, it’s actually in the lack of the digital sources of “inspiration” that I find the most unique and deeply meaningful ideas for my artwork. This is because in the quiet I am alone with myself, my thoughts, and with the values that are most important to me. I am alone with my curiosities, and with my questions. Being quiet is like sitting in a room empty of the noise created by the constant flow of content pushed into my head. A blank canvas, it’s blissfully lacking in color. What the quiet is full of, though, is opportunity. I can make anything! The quiet can be whatever I want it to be.
But, life is too busy, right? Where do I find this time? I find it when I spend less time scrolling through Facebook, playing on my phone, watching Youtube, and browsing Pinterest. In a way, I choose to make the quiet time by forgoing the social medias meant to entertain me. I do this to reduce the noise of my busy life, not because I think those sources of inspiration are wrong, but because I find deeper purpose and motivation to create the artwork I have always wanted to make outside of them.
One could apply this to any situation too. Not just in creating art does being silent benefit the individual. Some of the most productive people take time every day to be quiet. Whether it’s five minutes or five hours, it is an important part of their daily routine. I make it a point to spend at least a half hour in quiet. No music, no talking, no videos, only contemplative sources of inspiration. I find a place that separates me from the daily duties. That place is a small chapel down the street. There, it’s just empty silence, God, and me. I find my greatest inspiration there and the greatest purpose for my artwork. Instead of asking, “what do I want to create?” the silence forces me to ask, “What does God want me to create?” It’s as if removing all the busyness and noise of life reveals a truer goal and purpose for my art, and I begin to fill the empty space of silence with original, creative ideas unlike anything else.
A quote comes to mind in describing this.
“But there is that certain something about wanting to do the will of God. If one is sincere and if one really wants to know what His will is, all one has to do is be quiet. Shut off the television and radio, and in that silence one will always hear that still small voice in one’s heart telling him what to do.” ― Maria von Trapp
Our lives are so busy, but how many of us consider quiet time with oneself as an important part of our creative development? We are often so focused on how much we need to get done, producing results, or meeting specific deadlines that we often forget, we are meant for something great. How many times have we missed that small, inner voice telling us exactly what to do because the chaos of life and the noise of social media’s entertainment drowns it out? I’d hate to think about all the time I've wasted being distracted on Facebook, Youtube, etc. only to realize there was a small whisper waiting to give me greater fulfillment.
While technology is great to get the ball rolling, the unending stream of information doesn’t always keep me on target. It often diffuses my creative process, distracting me away from the messages and feelings I want my artwork to represent. Don’t get me wrong, these sources of media are great especially when you need reference photos and a little inspiration. What I’m talking about are those ideas that are found in the silence. The deep, meaningful ideas that you feel truly connected to.
I didn’t start here, and being quiet was actually really hard to get used to. Being quiet takes discipline, focus, and considerable effort. However, like many other things that take a lot of work, the rewards are great. The quiet provides clarity, originality and a clearer purpose while reducing the feeling of always being busy. There is always time to be quiet, whether it’s on a walk, in the car, your lunch hour, or in a chapel like me. The quiet opens doors to creativity and fans the spark of inspiration into a flame.
Take time to be quiet. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find there.