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He reluctantly begins pushing a pencil around on some paper.

Are you waiting until you’re inspired before you start your next big project? If so, I honestly wish you the best of luck, but I also suggest you give this post a quick read through to see if it can’t help you out a little.

Sure, inspiration can sometimes knock on your door without you lifting a finger first, but it certainly doesn’t happen often enough for most of the creative types I know, myself definitely included. Looking at other artist’s work is an absolutely vital way to gain inspiration. But it’s generally short-lived and then the real work has to ensue. You’d be surprised how many artists stop right at this point. Or, maybe you wouldn’t?

We really don’t ever go finding true, solid, intense inspiration. I happen to think that it finds us. But, I also happen to have a pretty good idea, through much of my own practical application over a number of years, that inspiration is quite shy. Quite elusive. And even quite selective. It tends to grab hold of those who do real work in their chosen craft. And its polar opposites; depression, frustration and perhaps even money problems, seem to grab hold of those creative types who avoid real work.

Yeah, there’s a ton of talk out there about passion. About finding your true purpose. But I think that those things come to be only after you do some real work first. At which time, inspiration grabs hold and shakes you hard enough to get you moving, spilling out your best work.  And again, it’s production that counts more than anything else if you want to be truly inspired.

But, how do you produce anything if you aren’t yet inspired? Fortunately, there is an answer to this particular chicken and egg scenario. Brace yourself, because the answer really sucks: You have to START DOING SOMETHING. You have to do some actual, physical action along creative lines. And, quite frankly, the less you THINK about it beforehand the better. Yes, planning is crucial but you’ll do your best planning once you are warmed-up and have honed your craft via real action. Real time spent getting good, or at least halfway decent at what you do, is the ticket.

I’ll give you a simple example: A novice artist wants to learn how to draw cool cartoon characters for a comic strip idea he has. He sits down with some paper and pencils. He might feel some tension all of a sudden because he’s never actually worked very hard at getting good at drawing anything yet. And it’s right here, at this very point, that so many people stop. They set the pencil down and lean their head on their hand to think for a while. Well, this is a big mistake in my humble opinion.

Hell, even veteran artists with tons of drawing experience pull this one once in a while. We, as artists, seem to want to know where we’re going before we even get started working on anything. And while this may make sense if you’re trying to drive from Dallas to Seattle, it can stop an artist cold.

The blank sheet of paper, the empty writing journal, the brand new camera sitting at the ready atop its tripod. These things can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.

So, let’s talk to this budding cartoonist and tell him to simply start drawing. Doesn’t much matter what he draws. Just do something. Don’t sit there and think about things. Draw. Get some sort of actual action going. Well, he reluctantly begins pushing the pencil around on some paper. Twenty minutes later, he’s got some crude ovals and rectangles. He tells you he’s frustrated because his cartoonist idols are so damn much better than himself. You tell him to just keep drawing.

An hour later he has some crappy stick figures and more crude ovals and rectangles. He tells you he wants to go to Starbucks or the bookstore to get inspired or to simply take a break. You tell him to keep going. Keep drawing. Don’t let him get up and leave because he may not return to that drawing table for days, weeks or even months, quite literally. If he sits there copying his favorite artists latest graphic novel, great! It’s action and it ranks way higher than merely thinking.

What you’re trying to do is to get him to go all the way through the extremely valuable process of pushing his way toward inspiration. Toward real improvement.

Now, fast-forward a few days. This young artist, if he has stuck with it diligently, is now turning out some pretty kick-ass work, at least for a beginner. And he’s totally into it. He’s drawing. He’s creating universes full of characters, scenarios and objects. He’s having more fun than he would going to a movie or playing video games. He’s inspired!

By this point you’d be hard-pressed to get him to budge from that drawing table. The passion? The true purpose (if there even is such a thing)? They’re there now, too, automatically.

You see, you generally don’t go seeking these things before you begin working. You generally just start working and then, after you’ve pushed through a few mental barriers, a few skill-level barriers, they find you. I can’t remember where I read this and I’m probably stating it incorrectly but, basically, great ideas seldom lead to real action, but real action very often leads to great ideas.

And the rewards from real action are tangible. You feel better. Worry, doubt, depression and in my case, even a bad back seem to greatly reduce, if not slip away entirely… long as you keep at it regularly.  It’s called being a working artist. Being in action. Being truly productive. And this real action stuff is an upward spiral. It opens doors to ever-improving quality in your work. Ever-improving creative ideas. It matters. It’s important. No matter what you create, you and your art are important. Hell, the world is in a shit-storm and its inhabitants are starving for decent art more than ever.

And by working hard, working to really improve, working to the point at which you are proud of yourself, you might even get a whole lot closer to making some freakin’ money, too!

So, grab that pencil, or whatever it is you do, and get going.

Bryan Ubaghs, aka Marvin Muckelford

Where's the Inspiration?

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