I became somewhat obsessed with this question early on and have been asking myself the same one for my entire life. In my current job of mentoring artists, I now help others find their own answers to this very same question. It is not necessary to even know the full answer but it is imperative to consistently ask yourself,
What inspires you?
It has occurred to me that when you become involved with this question, over time, you get better and better at answering it. The answers change with the passage of time. They become more personal and distinct the more times you think about it. Each time you ask the better the answer becomes.
For many of us this might be the most important question of our lives. It is for me. Every time it is asked, every time we allow ourselves to realign our lives to the answer, our capacity for generating more meaningful art increases.
Moving towards the fire – those things in our life that inspire us and bring us alive – generates creativity. It took me a long time to understand that out of inspiration, doing all manner of things you love, comes creativity. If you are an artist and rely on creativity like me, then it becomes imperative to protect, to nurture all things that inspire you.
I am not just talking about art. I am talking about that yoga class, seeking out and seeing those friends who light you up, taking time in your day to walk in the woods, going to see new kinds of art, taking a workshop to learn something new or just diving into a new world of a book you have wanted to read but just never found the time. It is, of course, different for everyone. It is the practice of discernment. Choosing the big YES! over the small yes or, even worse, the plain and resigned, ok.
It is important to answer the question accurately because often the culmination of the answers and decisions based on this question manifest in what we create, what ends up in our lives. It could be a new business idea, a new relationship, a painting, a novel, a song, a career change or any other countless possibilities. In short, the decisions, the choices derived can either bring us alive or hold us where we have been. We want the former, especially if you are an artist.
We just simply must get it right. Our creative lives depend upon it.
Thankfully, as artists we actually get a lot of practice asking this very important question. The very process of making art is literally thousands (actually, millions) of yes and no decisions based solely on what feels right to you.
In an art process it is all about compromising less and less, eliminating the unfulfilling parts so that eventually what remains is something incredibly potent and meaningful to you. Your art is simply one of your answers made visible.
Our art, therefore, can stand as our personal reminder, a single placeholder of what truly matters to us at that moment. It resides within the bigger context of our art making, a practice that we can return to again and again to try to better answer that essential question: What inspires me?
I am curious. What inspires you?