The notion of “inspiration” is exciting, romantic and, well, inspiring. Our mythologies of creativity tell us that the right synchronicity of circumstances will spark not only The Idea that will change everything, but the will and ability to execute it. In reality, sitting around waiting for inspiration to “strike” is about as effective as waiting for actual lightning to strike and start your campfire. Inspiration can be cultivated and sought out, though.

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum, no matter how much consistent work and practice one puts in. It is the encounters and experiences that excite, intrigue and teach us that generate and motivate creativity. Sudden, striking ideas do happen – but they don’t come out of nowhere, they are the result of a long-simmering idea suddenly coalescing as the last piece falls into place. To be creative, go out into the world and seek out inspiration. This can take any form you like, from getting back to the land and nature, to delving into works of philosophy for new ideas. Inspiration is all the little pieces of life that keep you motivated and keep you thinking until The Idea finally coalesces (or, more likely, is finally forced into being like molding a stiff piece clay.)

Do not shy away from engaging with others’ works of creativity as a source of inspiration. Far from tainting the authenticity of your creative expression with influence, others’ art can be a great source of inspiration. Most peoples’ original inspiration to become a writer, artist or any other creative was probably someone else’s work. Don’t be afraid to revisit that original inspiration in times of low motivation.

Art exists to provoke emotional and intellectual responses and to expose new ideas and perspectives, all of which are the essence of inspiration. In a sense, art is a short cut to inspiration! Whatever kind of creative you are, try to be open to what all kinds of creativity can teach you – visual art, performance, music, literature, digital arts….

A risk of relying on others’ art to inspire you in periods of low motivation and inspiration is that witnessing the peak of others’ creative process may stir up insecurity and fear. The doubting voice inside might just say “Well I can’t do that, so why bother…” The gulf between where you see yourself and where you want to be may become stark and intimidating. Remember that inspiration is also about learning. Look at work that you admire, or consider “better” than yours, as something to learn from rather than envy. What is it that you see in that work that seems to be missing from your work and how can you develop that missing piece? What technique and craft does that artist use that you can learn? If inadequacy and fear clouds inspiration, focus on learning and honing your craft.

Creativity requires consistent work, but it also needs to be nurtured with inspiration. Fortunately, creatives do not need to passively await inspiration: they can go out and find it. Part of the work of creativity is spending time immersed in others’ creativity, looking for the little pieces that will build and motivate your own.

 


IMG_20180718_115103_621Elisabeth Hill is an Edmonton-based writer and researcher who currently works as a Programming and Engagement Coordinator at the Art Gallery of Alberta.

This blog is an op-ed piece written by Rachael Heffernan, writer and researcher for The Drawing Board.

I don’t think I need to explain the importance of critical thinking – every teacher you’ve come across since you were six years old has probably asked you to do it, and nearly every blog post floating around your Facebook feed is probably telling you why to do it. So instead, here are some ways you can learn how to do it, do it more frequently, or get better at doing something you already do all the time.

Make Up Alternate Stories: This is my personal favourite thing to do with pop songs. Remember that “Rude” song by Magick? Well, listen to that song and imagine that the man singing is brutally abusive to his partner. Now, erase that story, and imagine that he’s actually part of an interracial relationship. Are you finding your opinion about the song changing as you go along? Good.

Be aware of power language: Have you ever heard of “THE feminists”? As if there is only one type of feminist? Have you ever heard people make big blanket statements, saying that “Organic food is better” without allowing for nuance, exceptions, or different experiences? How about claims of things being ancient, or being first? What about subtle ways of discrediting someone, such as mentioning their age, appearance, or their hygiene? These things are important to notice, because they are tiny ways that voices can be eliminated, people can be silenced, and audiences can be convinced. This is also a really excellent way to look at your own biases. Change the person in the news story to a different gender, a different age, a different race. Does your opinion change? If it does, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be fruitful to examine why it changes.thinking-science-3-e1377719468944

Look for what’s not necessary. I recently saw a post saying that a 12-year old girl had scored higher on a Mensa test than Albert Einstein. Does it matter that she’s a girl? I think, to be totally honest, that I would be impressed just that any human could score that well on a Mensa test, because I can’t figure out those little flash cards to save my life. If that person is particularly young, then perhaps that adds to the impressiveness of the achievement. But the gender? I don’t think so. If men and women are expected to perform equally on tests, then that shouldn’t matter at all

Put yourself in their shoes. Something I see a lot when people discuss children is that the perspectives presented are often those of the parents, or the adults, but not often of the children themselves. Try to think about these issues from all angles – what if you were the child? What if you were the parent? What if you were the teacher? What if you were a casual observer?

ZA'ATARI, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 01: Children pose for a picture as Syrian refugees go about their daily business in the Za'atari refugee camp on February 1, 2013 in Za'atari, Jordan. Record numbers of refugees are fleeing the violence and bombings in Syria to cross the borders to safety in northern Jordan and overwhelming the Za'atari camp. The Jordanian government are appealing for help with the influx of refugees as they struggle to cope with the sheer numbers arriving in the country. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 160600686

In the case of the Syrian refugees, put yourself in their shoes and think about the decisions they are making in incremental steps. What would it take for you to sell your home and move to another country? Probably a solid job, at least, and the reassurance that you could come back for frequent visits. Now what would it take for you to move to a non-English speaking country and learn the new language? What would they have to pay you? What demands would you have? Now think about what would cause you to leave your home and most of your belongings to pack yourself and your children onto a tiny boat to sail for the first available country with no reassurance that you’ll arrive alive, let alone cross the border, get a job, and learn the language. How would you feel if you had managed to grab and keep track of your iPhone, only to be penalized for owning such a piece of luxury when you’re supposedly in need? How would it feel to have someone scorn your child for having a DS when it’s their one comfort in their new life of sleeping on mats in school gymnasiums?

Look for differing opinions. It doesn’t do anything to just talk to people you agree with all the time, and you can easily get only one side of the story when you only read one article. When you feel strongly about something, learn all that you can about it. Read the work of people that disagree with you. Try to find holes in your own argument and then try to fill those holes. Look for reliable sources and then challenge them.Critical-Thinking-Skills-Tuition-and-Courses-London

Give credit where credit is due. Being critical can cause a lot of stress, so it’s important to appreciate good work and solid opinions when you find them. Stay skeptical but be careful not to fall into cynicism – it’s not good for your own well being to doubt integrity regardless of any evidence presented. shutterstock_208347706

Be willing to change your mind. If you love science, or love debate, or love learning, or just want to be a conscientious individual, this is crucial. If someone presents you with good evidence, or if you’re shown how your views are hypocritical, you have to be able to admit you’re wrong, and change your mind. I’m not saying go out without a fight – challenging views and debating things is a wonderful way to learn – but there’s a point where that fight ends, and you say, “Oops. I’m completely wrong.”

I know it’s hard at first, and it can feel humiliating, but just keep picturing it from the other side – if you convinced someone to reconsider, you wouldn’t be embarrassed for that person, you’d probably respect them for being open-minded. Plus, the more often you change your mind, admit you’re wrong, and ask people to teach you more, the easier it gets, and the more it feels graceful and enlightening.

This article was written by Rachael Heffernan – new staff Writer and Researcher for The Drawing Board.

If you’ve ever struggled with depression, you’ve likely heard all of the mainstream advice – eat well, exercise, talk to a counselor, take medication, get lots of sunlight. I have found, though, that there are little tricks that can bolster you up if you are finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning due to your depression. Please note that this is anecdotal advice from my personal experience and is, in no way, a replacement for medical advice.

50c195121cf255765cd19f6d2d459796Talk the talk.

A long time ago I read an article exploring why evangelical Christians generally have better mental health than their secular counterparts, and it turns out that part of the reason has less to do with religion and more to do with how they talk. “I’m so blessed.” “I’m so loved.” “Look at the gifts all around me.” It’s an appreciative, grateful, and generally positive way of looking at the world.

And I thought to myself, “I can do that.”

So I do. I talk about how wonderful my life is. I am openly thankful for the things I have. I focus on how lovely people are. Whether or not God is included in those conversations is entirely up to you – but no matter your belief system (or lack thereof), you can start saying (out loud) how great your life is and how appreciative you are of it. It makes a huge difference and is loosely related to psychological techniques including Behavioural Conditioning and the interruption of Automatic Negative Thoughts.

il_fullxfull.738763364_69vkSurround yourself with lovely reminders.

When I’m having a rough morning, I try to clothe myself in gifts – a dress my mom gave me, a scarf from my sister-in-law, or a shirt from my partner. I wrap myself in these things and I feel all the love that has been shown to me, and I suddenly become much stronger, and much more outward looking. Plus – I look fly.

runawayRun.

This is one of the hardest, but ultimately (to me) one of the most important ways to stay happy. And by “run,” I don’t necessarily mean “Strap on your shoes and hit the treadmill” (although that helps too!).

I mean, every time I start to feel those monsters creeping up – lethargy, apathy, lack of appetite – I run: I go shopping. I go to the movies. I go to the mailbox. I go over to a friend’s place. Every opportunity I have to get out of the house, I take: Yes, I’ll help you move. Yes, I’ll go to the park with you. Do you need help painting your house? Planting a garden? Organizing your sock drawer? I’m available to volunteer. I’m available to work. I run and I keep running until I can happily collapse, safe in the knowledge that, at least for that day, the monsters couldn’t get a grip on me.

hijab-fashion-2014-4Dress up

If you’re like me, you have no real reason to get dolled up, and about a million reasons – including sweaty gym sessions and an inordinate love of the snooze button – not to. But getting dressed up can be surprisingly helpful.

Just like slipping into pyjama pants after work can be instantly relaxing, putting on dress clothes and doing your hair can immediately make you feel more productive. After getting dolled up, I suddenly feel weird sitting in bed. I feel the need to accomplish things. I look great; I feel great; and I itch to get things done. It’s a good combination.

So yeah, you might mess up your makeup the instant you hit the gym, and yeah, you might need to do more laundry as you systematically mudify all your nice clothes, but if it means you feel better, then it’s worth it.

tumblr_lvwdafR7351r27f9oo1_500.pngImprove your space

I used to think I didn’t care about how my place looked. And maybe if you’re reading this, you think the same about yourself. But space can be tricky – for myself, as a perpetual renter, grad student, and generally cluttered human being, I didn’t get attached to spaces and didn’t see the point in investing time and effort into the apartments I was only staying in for 8 months. But speaking from recent experience – it’s worth the time. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the marginal cost. The moment everything is put away, sparkly clean, and looking fabulous, I can instantly feel the clouds lift from my brain. A clean sense of space leads to less cluttered, more thoughtful behaviour in other areas of my life. I clean up my workspace (my computer) by closing my millions of useless tabs. I manage to maintain only one glass of water rather than grabbing a new one every time I get up. I update my phone. It’s remarkable, really.

So break out the Pinterest inspiration board, go buy a mop, and get to work!