Inspiration Is a Myth

There is one myth about artists that will endure until the end of time. Well actually there are many, but the one I want to write about is the myth of inspiration. This is the idea that artists are like vessels, filled to the brim with talent and creativity and then something mystical happens out of the blue to tip them over and pour everything, heart and soul onto a canvas or piece of paper. THEN they stand back upright and are filling up again, just waiting for the right moment to tip over yet again. Waiting "for inspiration to strike".

(photo by Wesley Cummings for Figure & Ground ATL)

Perhaps that's a weird visual metaphor for me to use but it really helps describe how I *think* people are thinking about how artists like me create. Of course, I can only speak to my own personal circumstances. I don't know what other artists or creators feel or how they set up their practice. But it's pretty well known that outsiders looking in tend to romanticize the work of an artist. That is probably only further amplified by the way we market ourselves through our websites and social media. 

I'm here to tell you that it's bullshit. If I had to WAIT for actual inspiration to make artwork then I really would be a starving artist because I wouldn't have very much work to show. When I get the question on "what inspires me", I cringe a little bit inside. I'd much rather we use words like "motivate" and "drive" instead of inspire; these words imply practice and routine - properly describing what's happening in the studio. You are not just turning the car on, you are driving it, constantly moving and shifting and looking and trying to find a direction. 

Inspire is really not as bad of a word as I'm making it seem; I just want to be clear that making artwork isn't as pretty as most people perceive it to be. It's not always a beautiful scene with sunbeams flooding in the studio. Sometimes you make some real ugly crap and you crumple it up and throw it away. Sometimes you're really ashamed of what you're doing... or not doing. Other times you're researching and other times you're actually just procrastinating because you're scared. Every bit is a part of the whole environment because you have to explore and inhabit every part of yourself. That moment of "inspiration" happens when you've worked through all the problems, fears, and doubts. And then that's when you turn the camera on.

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