Watch: Exploring the Mysterious Origins of Inspiration and Creativity
Where do ideas come from?
Creativity is a very strange animal. At one minute it's bountiful, at another elusive. Sometimes it comes to you like lighting, and other times it comes from the slow trudge of hard work. Occasionally we try to discover its form or system or mechanics to try and predict where it's hiding in the vast electromagnetic landscape of our brains, but more often than not we surrender to its perplexing mystery as it shows up unannounced like rain in the middle of July.
In this short film by Andrew Norton, we get to learn about the many different shapes creativity takes in the lives of artists from all corners of professional creativity, including director David Lynch, journalist Robert Krulwich, Buzzfeed podcast hosts Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, pro skateboarder Ray Barbee, and Orchid Thief author Susan Orlean.
There are so many interesting thoughts shared in Norton's short film, but there are a few in particular that will help those who struggle with finding ideas, as well as remaining optimistic and productive during creative dry spells.
Find out how ideas come to you
After listening to all of the speakers in the film, one thing is very clear: ideas come to everyone differently. For some it's like a bolt of lighting—an "a-ha" moment. For others it comes through consistent application of their craft. Knowing this, it's imperative for you to figure out how ideas come to you so you can create the most ideal conditions for receiving them.
For me, ideas come from observing real life scenes, like a bunch of kids riding bikes down the street or an old woman walking out of a liquor store with a bottle of vodka bigger than her chihuahua. Sometimes it's just the way light hits the trees as the sun goes down, other times it's what my bathroom looks like when my wife and I get back from a night out (a total disaster). So when I'm stuck, I don't wait for ideas or keep writing until I get it right—I just look around.
Creativity is hard work
What do you do when all of your ideas dry up and you've hit a major creative roadblock? If you're like most people you try to manufacture ideas, get stuck, try to manufacture more ideas, get more stuck, and then get depressed and wait for creativity's divine presence to return to you once again. But creativity isn't something you have or don't have, and neither are ideas. These things often have to be worked for. Sitting down and writing even when you don't know what to write could result in getting your creativity running again. Going for a jog, reading a book, looking out the window, doing some free writing, taking a nap, having a conversation, going for a drive, having a few drink—all of these things are technically "work" if you 1.) use them to your creative benefit, and 2.) if you directly return to your project once you're done. Waiting for an idea to come to you is risky, because it may never come. Sometimes you just have to chase it.
Where does your creativity come from? How do you remain creative during dry spells? Let us know in the comments below.