INSIGHTS ON GETTING INSPIRED TO PAINT (Sing, Write, Invent, etc.)

At my art exhibits, I have had several patrons, artists and creative spirits approach me with this question (which for them nags for a solution): "How does one get unstuck and rekindle authentic inspiration?" I am familiar with this dreaded state for I too have had my share of those unsettling moments when the "flow" is nowhere to be found. I'd like to share here what has worked for me, but rounded out into three steps designed to coax the muse and get any artist back on track.



Whenever I sense that inspiration seems to be absent from within my studio, the first thing I do is to RETREAT! That means literally suspending everything that equates to labor and fretful persistence. It is less about running away from the work at hand and instead about consciously drawing closer to the stillness and vitality within and of the surrounding environment. Examples might include such activities as going outside into nature alone, walking along a shoreline or sitting in meditation, taking time to get in touch with one's innermost feelings. Often, when it seems that life is raining down distractions upon us, the converse is more true, in that we may have unwittingly permitted inner distractions to blind us to the creative spirit that naturally courses through us. It is as if we unconsciously seek out external excuses to rationally explain what is amiss. Ironically, what is missing in this picture is YOU. It is time to acknowledge yourself, to affirm what you LOVE about you. What do you love?

What do those things that you love say about you? What has been your life grain, that which seems to be the core principle in most of your activities? It is about letting go, completely, temporarily casting aside everything you've been taught or conditioned. With this refreshed perspective, you have this opportunity to grant yourself permission to be more YOU, with that extra effort in applying self-honesty. For example, an artist once complained to me that he was struggling to find inspiration. As it turns out he is a surfer, I noticed a vitality surge as he shared his love for the ocean. He described how this passion permeates throughout all his being when he is one with the wave. His energy then ebbed as he confessed that he doesn't seem to find the time to paint, much less seek inspiration to paint. It is as though the inspiration and passion dissipates with every step he would take away from the sea and back toward the studio. Wouldn't we notice that the inspiration could be right under his nose, his toes getting wet? A good guess would be to continue being full of himself and let the inspiration surface, when the creative energy is accumulating and getting abundant again.

Herein lies the underlying contradiction: if inspiration truly resides within, then how is it that it seems to be inextricably anchored to a situation or a place? The truth is there is no magic pill or external source that we can derive inspiration from. It is from within as opposed to from the external that WE CREATE OUR REALITY, emotions and events included. Moreover, keeping in mind that we also share our collective realities with others, there often comes a time when we discover ourselves in others and in our surroundings, reflecting back like mirrors. If the creative energy is so abundant now, then why am I not finding or creating that inspiration to paint?

The retreat is not over yet...the next useful step would be maintain our mirrors keeping them polished clear of any obstructions. Our next task therefore would be to CLEANSE!




The Greek word for cleanse is 'katharos', from which we have 'catharsis', 1. a purification or purgation of the emotions such as pity and fear 2. a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension 3. elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression.

Since inspiration is not something that technically can be forced, we can somehow coax it. Nature has a way of bringing together all the essential conditions in ensemble all at work to produce a specific phenomena. As creative beings, our journey becomes one of consistently gaining insight on how inspiration works its way through us. At best, we collaborate with mother nature to set the conditions and environment that are ideally conducive for such inspiration to come forth.

Does this mean going for the spa treatment? Not necessarily, but it could be wonderful complement to this program of self nurturing that we so deserve. Yes, go to the hilt as it can help alot. Very often the amount of physical reach we put out there in the world has its counterpart in our mental processes. Yoga is known to achieve this balanced state when muscles are stretched and rid of their stiffness thereby readying the body for enhanced, pain-free form and function. When the body is relaxed, vision likewise relaxes, and expands. Thus clarity around preferred futures is regained. What we want to achieve is often accomplished through a really thorough MENTAL cleanse gently nudging our mind out of the way of emerging inspiration.

The analytical mind has hardly any business in the early stages of the creative process. To clear our minds of the burdensome clutter a notebook for use as a personal journal can come in handy.

With this journal, catharse yourself regarding all things you notice as having immobilized your life. Create a list and cluster similar issues and concerns into categories. Next allocate one page for each category (ex. people I am upset with, people who are not happy with me, persistent problems, things I lack/want, etc.) Keep at it until you feel you've covered all your difficult areas. In practical terms, the goal is to bring these items into consciousness and afford them their due expression in order to diffuse their power in holding back your life energy.

Scan a list of categories placing a "Yes" or "No" adjacent to each entry, asking yourself if "Yes" - you know this can be resolved peacefully and put into the past. "Yes" - you are confident that when placed in the past that this category of concerns will no longer leverage any power to pull you away from the present moment. Continue by asking yourself if "No" - this category will not go away until dealt with? Challenge these areas by shining the light of win/win upon them "What would be a nice WIN/WIN idea for this for all concerned?" No matter how far fetched it could seem, just jot it down. Note the emotion you are feeling at this point, any change? Acknowledge it and saturate yourself with this emotion, allowing nature to do its job of neutralizing. Essentially, we are nestled between the two extremes in our dual reality and this is the idea, to get you to a neutral point, suspending all judgement.

These lists when done honestly can produce a significant healing. If anger should emerge in any of the items listed, allow it as it is a natural expression. View it as a rise in emotional tone. Most lower emotions such as fear, jealousy, revenge may require a fit of anger on its way up the scale only to dissipate during the cleanse. Too often, we have pushed down these upsets into our subconscious, only to have them emerge later when we can no longer control it.

The desired state is this place which poet Rumi so aptly describes, "Out beyond the world of ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there."

The art world abounds with its critics. When we criticize, immediately we place outselves into the realm of being criticized. It is a double-edged sword of self-sabotage! This is one more page to include in your journal you might include. Write down all the attacks on your person, things you perceive people as saying negatively about you. Once the list is rattled down, take each item and ask yourself if you had done a similar act upon others. Humbly and contritely make a note of that. When we have been criticizing others, it so happens consequently on the other side of the coin, where we don't always realize we tend to be also hard upon ourselves. We can be our own worst critic. It is time, now, to dispel this habit, for good.

Throughout this exercise, once you have concluded a noticeable rise in tone and well being, you are now happily ready for the next step....VISUALIZE!




The retreat is still not complete! You are to luxuriate in your newly regained natural state fresh like a newborn baby. The idea is to feel as if you are floating upon a cloud, with no anchors pulling you down or anything else tugging your attention away. It is your sacred space, your sanctuary. Be comfortable, shoes removed, clothes loosely fit, a favorite beverage nearby, anything that makes it YOUR WORLD as perfect as you can make it without sacrificing any contribution to your personal comfort.

When I visualize, I prefer to switch back and forth from notebook size to a large poster sheet, using the notebook later for condensing my conclusions and for subsequent additions. I call this a vision board. With a marker or crayon, I put in the center of the expanse of paper a tiny stick figure representing my SELF. I proceed to sketch the things I WANT or WOULD ENJOY, barring the doors against any hint of a "lack of" mentality. Actively bathing in the emotions of joy, gratitude, and hope is very important at this juncture. This should be a fun activity! The law of attraction prescribes that we will invariably attract that which we put our attention/energy upon. Have a feast with this. Observe the rise of emotion. Cast away any doubt as this is about what we wish to attract into our lives and nothing less.

This same activity could be applied in a notebook. Write out the desired items in one column. When done, go back to the top and write next to each item, what would make that item even better. Again, note the rise of emotion. Allow those high emotional ranges to linger and saturate your being. We are using this tool as a magnet for the good things coming our way, per the law of attraction. The notebook is extremely handy for this as ideas, unless acknowledged can evaporate as if written in invisible ink, to be forgotten later. To have this in written form affirms the idea, registering it in the universe for my notice, eliciting something now tangible to cultivate and expand upon.

Another variation of this exercise that I enjoy is to write and send an email to myself with "My Vision" as subject header, and drag thumbnails from the google image pages, images which reflect the various aspects of my vision. That page gets saved for future reference for resending to myself with additional images I find to my liking. All of these impressions will congeal and be kept alive in view and fed by the energy you provide them by mere reinspection. Remember to inject the positive emotions as if you'd really enjoy having such experiences in your life. Back to the question of being inspired as an artist...keeping these higher emotional states running, we are in a more advantageous position for attracting the muse. The muse will reveal itself to you, as long as you are neutral in judgement and receptive to its presence. Inspiration, like spirit is always present. In this regard, the answer is not distance but direction. You are never far from inspiration but merely facing the less optimal direction. Being receptive is the key, and that is fostered in better keeping our analytical and judging mind out of our way.

Speaking of being judgemental, it is a good time to check out contents of your mind that may be culprits for that artist's block. One good method of fishing for such is to recognize those "buts" in your dialogue with others or yourself. Common examples are "but I can't draw a straight line", "but art materials are expensive", "but I don't have a degree in fine arts", "but I received no compliments", "but I can't find the time", "but I don't want to be a starving artist", etc.. Such internal dialogue are self-fulfilling prophecies fueled by your own energy into a vicious cycle. Remedy is to nip those "buts" in the bud and DO IT!

If you are feeling abit rusty after your recovery, try this technique: Draw an empty room or find a photo of an empty wall in a large decor and proceed to gaze upon it asking: "What would be really cool that would fill that spot?" A poet with a blank sheet of paper or word document could jot down at least a word that best describes what he wants to focus upon. It could be love or whatever feels good. The next fun part is to visualize the audience viewing this work. To push it further, I sometimes like to choose a keyword of the desired outcome I wish to accomplish in my creation with that audience. Try "breathtaking" as an example and see where your brush or pen takes you! Do not be surprised if you hear that keyword again in form of a response or compliment on that piece you created. It's all about the vibratory principle, waves making waves, sending ripples out influencing other waves. Everything we do counts! So make it good or at least what you want its desired outcome to be. In writing my poetry, I find myself often replacing words with a 'better' word, then rewriting it to a polished result, reading it over and over, til it FLOWS! You'll begin to notice a certain magic, (it's the muse coming through!)

Another favorite tool for bringing in the muse that I recommend to all regardless of profession, is to create your space, without inhibition, a space that would best reflect your innner world. Cover your walls with art perhaps, play some of your favorite music, tweak your wardrobe, meet as many artists in all professions, create the life you want without reserve perpetuating that spirit of celebration and transcendence! Speaking of "without inhibition", the same applies to your craft. It may be time for you to loosen up and create out of the clear blue, out of the void, however "weird" it seems to you, venturing more into the unknown, that path untraveled. Dare!

Should we desire to push this imagination further with a carrot on a longer pole, try putting your blank canvas or paper or imaginary digital camera into a hypothetical or "virtual" future, in any distant future year, for example, putting yourself into 2050 A.D.! Design your vehicle, your floating city, your clothing, and imagine! That imagination is God has a good element of truth in it. Like God, there are no limits to imagineering, where it can take you. Your notes and lists could be expanded and improved upon, taking your favorite items and taking them out for a ride into infinity, stuff dreams are made from. This is almost stuff of time-travel! Give your creative juices their free reign and transcend the speed of light at warp speed!

Overwhelmed or daunted by what might be too grandiose to execute? Try taking your best vision and break it down into a timetable, a plan of strategy. How many manhours? How many staff? What materials should I get? How many phases would be ideal? Where and when would my creation launch its opening day celebration? It is now your happy task to bring heaven down to earth, making it real, giving it birth. This is the province of the greatest inventors ever lived. There was no critic in the way and they more consciously chose to manifest their new creation into being. To the degree you take this step far, your present outlook in art would have more of its uniqueness and you would never be the same again.

YOU CREATE YOUR NEXT STEP & BEYOND

On a final note, we should bear in mind that there are no rules etched into stone much less the definition of Art itself. Art is what our instincts and intuitions are woven into. Art and the human spirit are inextrictably linked together as no other species can appreciate or become aware of. Therefore, its dynamic is subject to evolvement into the further recesses of the unknown, into the realms of the timeless, and into matters of the ephemeral. Art in order to thrive should be allowed its fullest expression and spontaneity as not to impede the "flow". Maintaining that innocence of a child is your gateway! Quoting Emerson, "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts." If we allow it, this mysterious art faculty has this wonderful way of bringing in the totally unexpected as if through a hollow reed. With the potent element of the Unknown, relate rather than resist and wonders will manifest before you in greater volume. So let's allow room for play and experimentation in our joyous exploration.

Think of what a fresh new world we'd enjoy in the present, a present to ourselves! Go for it!

Go where you are King!
Charles Wildbank