Monday, May 14, 2012

Inspiration VS Motivation

Having a career that relies on the constant flow of creative juices can take a toll. It can be very difficult to regulate when and how often new ideas come to you, and having writers block for any period of time can mean losing a great client opportunity.

During interviews, I've been asked, "Where do you go for inspiration?" What they're really asking is, "How easily are you able to find new ideas, and keep that creative flow?" It can be costly for an employer to take that risk with someone who is easily drained of those creative juices, but it's often very hard to gauge this.


What they should be more focused on is motivation instead of inspiration. You can have a thousand ideas, but no motivation to do any of them, and that is where the creative flow stops dead. Motivating yourself is something that requires a great deal of will-power and determination that comes from within and is completely self-sustaining.


As someone who considers their career more than just a way to pay the bills; creating and designing is a way of life, and is necessary for a happy, fulfilled existence. In order to maintain this level of creativity, there are a few things that can help stay motivated to act on the inspiration that comes.

Balance in all you do.
Lauren Krause of Creative Curio had incredibly wise words regarding the importance of balance in life in order to maintain that fresh perspective on all the experiences we subject ourselves to, and how it adds to our view of the world, and ultimately our design.

"Balance puts life into perspective, helps us to not lose our passion to bitterness, shows us inspiration through other experiences, and helps us maintain our sanity." -Krause

Aside from stating how exercise has been proven to reduce stress and benefit cognitive skills, eating right is just a great idea no matter what, and getting plenty of sleep are obvious things that can help obtain mind-body balance.

Some creatives have the ability to work better under pressure, tight deadlines, and high stress environments. This is a wonderful adaptive trait that allows us to survive in the fast-paced world of print, web, and publishing, but there must be balance here too. Be sure to remove yourself from these intense situations from time to time, and give yourself a slower pace project to focus on when the whirlwind is over. Better yet, something that requires very little effort like reading, writing out your thoughts, or playing. Stop and smell the flowers once in a while. Literally.

Never stop creating.
If you're inspired to test out a new tutorial or layout, don't wait for a project to come along that would allow you the opportunity. Make up a company to try it out on. Create things for you every once in a while. Redesign your portfolio site, design a book cover for that novel you started writing back in college, revamp the cereal box art for your cheerios, keep creating.

Don't ever forget the feeling of pencil on paper. There's a large stigma on the need for special technology in order to create professional design, but do not forget the origins of art. Pencil sketch the coffee mug in front of you while you're waiting for the waitress to bring you your pancakes. Grab a box of crayons and help your niece or nephew color Spiderman. Have experiments with things you've never tried like watercolor pencils, acrylic, oils, clay, wax, yarn, plaster, or anything you can get your hands on.

Art doesn't have to be restricted to the traditional means either. Having more than one type of creative outlet keeps your mind at attention. Switch outlets completely by exercising your creative abilities in the kitchen, or in the garden. Being able to taste your creations, and being able to watch them grow and bear fruit of their own gives you that sense of accomplishment and reward that you thought you could only get from a satisfied client. It's a personal level of reward that is tangible, which you can't really get from web design.

I've also found it satisfying to apply creativity in volunteer situations. Helping plan an event for the local community, and seeing all the hard work and collaboration come together helps fuel motivation to continue.

Stay hungry. Stay curious.
We live in a big world that has so many things to see. Allowing yourself the time and opportunity to have shared experiences with others brings in a new perspective to you, and changes the way you see things. It adds to what you know, and it adds to what you have the ability to see.

As a visual artist, there is so much in day-to-day life that relies on the ability to see things differently. Take any given opportunity to explore new things, places, and ideas in order to form your own opinions about them, and become inspired by any and all things that you encounter. Travel the world, or travel your library, but whatever you do, do not stagnate. The brain needs exercise and stimulation as much as the rest of you. Don't let it down.

If your schedule or budget don't allow for exotic trips to the Amazon, find out what lectures are at a college or university near you. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the topic, go anyways. It's the best way to learn. You may not think you'd even be interested in something until you experience it first-hand. And NEVER underestimate what you can gain from books. In the digital age, they are becoming more and more under-appreciated. Appreciate books of all kinds even if you might not agree with what they have to say; find out what they say, and decide after you're done with it.

Stay hungry for knowledge. Stay curious about everything. Experience, absorb, and share with others.

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