What Inspires You?

Every creative individual speaks of inspiration. We may define it in different ways, but we all seek it and welcome it when it comes. Most definitions of inspiration tell us that it is something or someone that causes us to feel excitement and a desire to do something, usually something creative. It is sometimes described as a deep-rooted passion and motivation. You’ll note that there are two parts to these descriptions: an initial feeling and a resulting desire. Something moves us. Something acts upon us and causes us to re-act.

For me, my understanding of inspiration is deepened by my knowledge of Spanish and the use of the word inspirar —  which means not only to inspire in the creative sense, but to breathe in. 

That’s how inspiration comes, I think. We don’t just see it, or hear it, we experience it. We breathe it in and allow it to fill us completely.

Inspiration is also the first step in the creative process. Even before we get ideas in our heads, long before we make any decisions about what we will draw, paint, sing, play, or write, we need inspiration. 

Sadly, many creative individuals think that inspiration is something that happens of its own accord. It either comes or it doesn’t, and I’ve known a lot of aspiring writers who’ve waited day after day for some inspiration to strike.

One of my favorite “funnies” is this little quip:

INSPIRATION BY NOON

I’ve known a lot of people who have this attitude, so in truth, this “funny” isn’t so funny at all.

I’m hoping that everyone reading this blog understands that inspiration isn’t something we wait for. It’s something we go out and find, something we make, something that is actually everywhere around us if we’re willing to look for it.

Inspiration can come from many sources, and that fact brings me back to the real topic of this post. It’s not about what inspiration is. It’s about where it is.

It truly can be anywhere and everywhere, but most of us have special places where we feel most inspired.

Forest_nature_reserve_Grady_nad_Moszczenica2,_Poland,_6_May_2006
Wooded areas always inspire me

For me, it’s out in the woods, hiking over trails, breathing in the fresh air, and feeling the earth beneath my feet.  I can also find inspiration when I’m near rivers, lakes, or gentle, babbling brooks. Sometimes just stepping outside and seeing the morning skies fills me with inspiration. Yes, I’m definitely inspired by nature, and maybe that’s why I love landscape painting so much.

Going places, doing things, having new experiences… all can be sources of inspiration. Listening to music can be very inspiring. Reading, watching movies, chatting with a friend, all have the potential to inspire.

Another — surprising — way of inviting inspiration is by clearing our mind a bit, focusing our attention fully on simple, mundane, routine tasks. I used to do a lot of ironing because inspiration invariably came. Same with washing dishes. Taking long walks has always inspired me. Meditation, too, can inspire.

Earlier this morning I spent a little time reading about Dutch mythology. I read about the fairies who came to the earth and became trees. I read about Donar’s Oak and the witte wieven  who dwell in the forests. 

Witte Wieven
Witte Wieven of Dutch Mythology

All of these things inspired me. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll be painting any of these scenes or using them as narrative in my art. Inspiration for me isn’t a specific idea — the ideas will come later — but a burst of creative energy and excitement that wants to find expression through my art.

I like to fill myself up every day with inspiration — by going out into nature, by reading, by listening to classical music, by writing down thoughts and feelings. I try to grab hold of anything and everything that interests me, swallow it all up, and let it gather force with all the other bits and pieces I’ve collected until it becomes pure creative fire.

I’ve always considered myself very fortunate in that I know what inspires me. I know where and how to find it.

What about you? What inspires you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 Comments

  1. What a great post, Judith. Just like you, I find inspiration in nature: when the light shines through the trees, the sparkles reflect off the stream, when cows and sheep graze on the field … All these things spark joy, and I need to paint them. On a side note: You will find very few man-made objects in my paintings because I find them too distracting. All “my” animals are, therefore, never fenced in. But I also find it inspiring to sketching in a group. It’s fun to “talk art” and see how other members capture a scene, person, animal, or object.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. After writing the post, I almost updated it with a few thoughts about art groups, because, as you’ve pointed out, just “talking art” can be inspiring, as can having “open studios” or workshops with other artists. I shy away from man-made objects in my landscape paintings, partly because I find them difficult to paint, but mostly because, like you, I find them distracting. As I learn more about narrative in art, though, I realize there can occasionally be reason to include something human or man-made, so I’m working on improving my perspective skills and my ability to draw/paint human figures. I’ve never done animals very well — other than a couple of cats. That’s something I do want to try in future landscapes.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate the comments you’ve shared.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And, oh, yes, thank you so much for mentioning the concept of being present. That’s such an important aspect of “inspiration”, and I wasn’t able to really put it into words. It’s so true though. We have to “be there” when inspiration calls. One of my favorite cartoons was one of a young man sitting at his desk, frowning, wadding up pieces of paper and tossing them to the trashcan. You know, the “writer’s block” idea. Meanwhile, outside his window a spaceship was landing. Aliens were walking around. After a time the aliens left. The man looked up and shrugged. “I’ll never be a writer,” he mutters. “Nothing exciting ever happens in my life.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m slowly catching up to previous posts, and this one really resonated with me on several levels. I’m fortunate that I hardly ever suffer from writer’s or artist’s block. I get tired … and I suffer from depression … and those things can drain energy so that fatigue and “uninspired” feel like the same thing. But that’s more of an execution thing than an inspiration thing. (I want to do something, but finding the energy to do it might be a different story.) But inspiration is something that feels second nature or innate to me. 🙂

    I also love nature, particularly forests. When I paint landscapes, they tend to have lots of trees. I love stone, too, but I need to get a little better at crafting natural looking rocks. Rivers, waterfalls, and lakes, too. Camping or hiking in these elements has provided lots of inspiration in the past, everything from settings for stories to images for art, to twisting local folklore into my own plots. So, sitting in the middle of nowhere doing nothing has been an amazing source of inspiration for me in the past.

    And I’m delighted to hear about the Dutch folklore. I’m big on folklore and mythology and have a soft spot in particular for elves and stories about them. I’ve never heard of these before, but the fit right in with others from nearby regions, as was mentioned with the Germanic version of elves. As far as I can tell Norway seems to be the birthplace of elven mythology, and they also associated elves with wisdom and light (well, light elves anyway; dark elves have their own mythology). Light elves went from being good, warrior-like, man-sized, “fair/beautiful/light” lesser gods who walked among the forests (beings of light a little akin to angels is some ways), to being considered spirits of the dead or ghosts, to being ambivalent magical creatures (which, as one reference on Celtic fairy beliefs put it, were “not good enough for Heaven, but too good for Hell so they were put here on earth in the hidden Otherworld), to finally being demonized down into little imps by missionaries. The Victorians brought back the romanticized version of the mythological elf for literature and poetry and art, but the little impish elves remained part of forest and holiday lore for some reason. And then Tolkien took the original Norse mythology and blended it with Victorian romanticism and created his own elves, which are pretty much the standard of modern fantasy. These white women are definitely connected, and I love connections like this when it comes to folklore!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been reading a lot about mythology, and it’s fascinating. In the past I’ve read that the reason the Norse cultures had such rich mythologies was because of the long months of darkness. It provided inspiration for many of the creatures and stories. Of course I’m reading a lot about Dutch mythology right now, too, and Woeden and Frijya seem to be borrowed directly from the Teutonic pantheon. Have you, by chance, read “The God of the Witches” by Margaret Murray? Very interesting with a lot of information about fairies. It’s available as a free PDF file online. If you haven’t read it, I think you’d enjoy it. Another area I’m currently exploring is “The Elder Troth” which relates to the English, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian beliefs. Oh, if only there were more time!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t heard of those, but I will definitely look them up. They do sound interesting! I love reading and writing about folklore and myth; they fall into the “web” type topics for me. I can tell myself I’ll take a few minutes to read one article, but then the connections within the article send me looking up other articles and topics for comparison or curiosity. And before I know it, two hours have passed. LoL …

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, my goodness. I have to add a P.S. — just looked up “Elder Troth” and it mentions the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, which is something I have referenced in research multiple times. Yep, I will be adding these to my reading list and eventually get around to them. Thanks so much for the recommend. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I listen to some modern (Dikta, Valravn, Eivor Palsdottir, etc.) and traditional-inspired Norse music, but this one is new to me. I see that it has music and voice, so it is done like a historical reenactment or is it more like a modern adaptation of ancient myth? That would be lovely either way. (I enjoy hearing Beowulf read aloud in its original language, so listening to anything like that, whether I understand it or not, would probably intrigue me. LoL …)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’s music and voice…a reading of the old text set to music. If you pull it up at Amazon, you should be able to sample it, I think. It’s an old CD… it came out about 20 years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I once read a quote that said “you’ll be average at best if you do things only when you feel like it”. I love that you mentioned inspiration does not just come, it’s something we find. If we sit and wait, or if we only write when we feel like it, well…. then we’ll never have the chance to be inspired by our own selves. Which is in turn inspiring others every single day. Even on the mundane “I do NOT want to write today” days. 😊 light & love to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I know what you mean when you say is inspiration is what you go out and find. Before I started to write this blog I helped somebody in a really bad place and that’s what inspired me to write my blog. Thank you so much for sharing this!!

    Liked by 1 person

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