Ellen Borggreve | Things I Know For Sure About Inspiration

Things I Know For Sure About Inspiration

April 13, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Inspiration is an essential when you are an artist/a creative....We need food, drink and yes, inspiration. Without that, we can't create and if we do try to create on willpower alone it will not have much soul in it. The project will not have any flow and you struggle to get things done. Artists do however often struggle with things like a writer's block, which I will refer to as artist's block as artists from all backgrounds suffer from it. I used to suffer from these periods of time, especially after Christmas, when all of a sudden the lid on the source of my ideas had been put on. 

Waddensea CoastlineModdergat, WaddenzeeCoastline of Unesco World Heritage Waddensea

I have not had this issue in the past few years. I might sometimes loose my enthusiasm to create a bit, but as soon as I am creating I feel inspired immediately. I think that recently it has become clear to me how this inspiration thing works. Let me share with you what I know for sure:

What I know for sure...

1. Thinking and willpower are the biggest obstacles in finding inspiration. They will not only not get you there, but will make it increasing impossible to get new ideas. The harder you think, the harder you use your logical mind, the less you will get fresh and inspired ideas. The trick is to actively look for the gap between thoughts, when for a minute your mind is not cluttered with all kinds of thinking.

2. Finding your way out of thinking is not as hard as you think. Some people get away from it by taking a walk, running, climbing mountains, going to some new place. Anything that gets the attention away from the world inside your head and into the world out there will help. Focus on something in nature, take a stroll along the river (a favourite of mine) or bake a cake or loaf of bread. Find out what activity helps you to stop thinking so much

3. Repetition kills inspiration, if not immediately, but it will most definitely kill it. If you are doing the same old, same old over and over again, it means you are on auto pilot and instead of being totally focussed on what you are doing, you can easily drift off in one of your mind's favourite thought stories. If you don't develop a fresh look on something that you have been doing for a long time or don't do anything new, learn new skills, take a different approach, inspiration will simply not be received by you anymore as you are less open to it

Coastline of the WaddenseaModdergat, WaddenzeeCoastline of Unesco World Heritage Waddensea in The Netherlands

4. Stepping outside your comfort zone can give your inspiration an enormous, gigantic boost. A recent example from my own life is my trip to the sea of the last weekend. I take pictures of nature, forests, micro landscapes, but the last time I saw the sea in my country was 30 years ago. The sea is so unlike my usual subjects....it is open and vast, whilst I often go for intimate and enclosed and so....I decided I needed to do something drastically different and went to the Waddenzee on the middle of the day (the worst time for landscape photography) and just see what I would be able to do with my camera. I can tell you that I spend hours there without any of the thoughts that so often go through my mind. No thought, just intense focus on how I should make a scene like this work. I enjoyed that, it taught me a lot about composition in a vaster landscape and made me appreciate my standard 24-70 lens sooooo much. I enjoyed it so much that I am sure I will be returning to the seaside again soon.

5. Fear of failure is inspiration's worst enemy. Learn to embrace failure as I have learned the most from things that went slightly or completely wrong. I often got entirely new ideas after I messed something up. I used to be very scared of even making the slightest mistake, but this leads to total stagnation. A little thought like :" I take macro pictures, I could not possibly take landscape pictures, I would fail terribly", will also lead to stagnation in your macro photography. Even if your landscape photos would not be all that great, as I am sure my sea pictures are not that great either, they will make you a better photographer as you have experienced another way of looking at things.  I have often learned the most from doing things that were not in my own field. Painting classes helped me develop a better understanding of colour and also the way emotions are translated into the canvas. I will not become a painter, but it made me a better artist anyway. I was not terribly good at it either, but that does not matter. I learned from it what was useful to me. So....know that fear is normal, but it is very rarely helpful if you want to create something. It will lead you to no man's land where you can not flourish. 

WaddenseaWaddenzee at Moddergat, The NetherlandsTranquil coastline at the Waddensea in Friesland, The Netherlands (iPhone picture)

When I found out that all the moments that I got new ideas were moments that I was not thinking, but rather being absorbed in the moment, I knew how to prevent artist's blocks and I have not had one since. If I feel slightly uninspired, I tend to that immediately. As an artist, this is one of your most important tools, so you need to take care of it and yes, it is a priority. I'd rather spend a day walking in the forest to clear my head so I can shake off that uninspired feeling than try harder to make things work out by using pure willpower. 

PS What can also kickstart inspiration is by using a different tool than you usually would. Let's say you always use a telelens or a wide angle lens. Try taking pictures with just a 50 mm lens for one day or try to use just your phone. The picture above is an iPhone picture. 

The enemies of inspirationThings I know for sure about inspirationInspiration is essential for our creativity, our photography, yet many creatives loose access to it. Here is what I know for sure about inspiration, how to loose it and how to get it


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