In this guest article, Nathanael gives inspiration a demotion.
“You can’t force the creative process.”
I hate it when people say that. You can, and must, if you create for a living (and want people to ever consider paying you).
There are clichés aplenty regarding the percentages of perspiration and inspiration. If you can’t force it, you’re not doing it for a living. That is fine by the way; I do not write novels for a living, so I do not feel bad about not forcing myself to write them. When I start them, it is for my own enjoyment. When I do not finish them, it is not a problem. I have clearly decided that it was not a priority. I did not get an advance from a publisher though, and if I ever sold a book, it would be a bonus; the result of a labour of love rather than a job. I did not finish a project that I started for nobody but myself. Hobbies are after all, not a job, and as long as I did not cost anyone anything, I have no obligation to anyone but myself.
If you had fun, or enjoyed it before you abandoned a personal project, then your obligation to yourself is fulfilled. If you have an obligation to someone else, then you need to meet it. Of course, nobody is perfect, and life has a way of throwing spanners in the works, but it is how you deal with the hiccups that makes you.
Inspiration is merely the subconscious providing a solution that has been arrived at as a parallel option to your concious process. It’s less regimented, so most of it is actually garbage that gets filtered out, but that ‘Eureka!’ moment is when one of those solutions surface, and your concious mind recognises a solution. Think of it as rolling a natural 20, even though the average roll of the dice is a 10.5. If you are not satisfied with the results of your 10.5 being good enough, then you need to up your game and improve your skills rather than complain about not rolling 20.
Over the course of a creative project, the difference between that moment of inspiration, and just working through the process will actually be minimal. Sure, there may be the project here and there that worked better as a result, or that did not work out as well as you would have liked, but you would be surprised just how little improvement that moment of inspiration makes to the end product on the whole.
People who are think they’re always inspired are deluding themselves, and selling themselves short: They are actually just really good at spotting solutions to creative problems.
Photo credit: Lawrence OP
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Nathanael is a professional designer, working in a visual communications field. Amongst his many jobs are interface design and marketing materials where he has to evaluate who the end user is, and who the target audience is.