I heard something today from a friend who I’d previously thought of as a creative entrepreneur. He’s an ad guy so you’d just assume he’s an idea machine, right?. I complimented him on a print piece I’d seen and asked where the inspiration came from. His answer shocked me. He fears running out of ideas. It’s a concept I can’t even fathom, though I’ve heard it from many corporate creatives. Don’t those who make a living by convincing with words and images have a steady stream of inspiration? Not always. While we do get ideas in our sleep and in solitude, if you hang out in your own head all the time, eventually, you become a desert. You’re creative juices dry up.
As my mentor and friend Barbara Winter commented on the adman’s fear of running out of ideas, “That’s scarcity thinking. He doesn’t know that inspiration must be nurtured.”
And that nurturing takes different forms at different time for different people.
When my sister Pam moved to Nashville at 23 to pursue her songwriting career, she signed a contract to spend every Friday in a publishing office on Music Row cranking out lyrics. I couldn’t imagine how she cold be creative in that environment. It’s always been a puzzle to me how employees who have to be creative on demand find inspiration sitting in an office building. . I thought about where my own inspiration came from for paintings and realized it never happened in the studio. That was just where I went to implement.
Think about songwriting. How may lyrics are inspired by new love, lost love or betrayal? The experience that trigger those emotions don’t happen in the cubicle. Creativity, like friendship, needs to be nurtured to thrive, and that nurturing can be both internal and external.
That nourishment for me comes from walking on the beach, though the redwoods or driving on the open road. The ideas flow continuously. The colors, textures and motion feed the idea bank. Not all ideas are born in solitude, thought. In fact, I find watching travelers in airports to be a red hot creative spark. A conversation with a stranger can be a great jump start for inspiration. Visit a preschool class or a farmer’s market and you can’t help but find ispiration. And of course read. A lot. Read about people who’s lives look nothing like your. Have a conversation with a five year old. And an eighty five year old. Watch a foreign film the first time through without reading sub titles.
My favorite, and the most powerful recharger of all is a live workshop. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, there’s nothing like the charge you get from being in a room of people with curiosity, enthusiasm and passion. It’s not just about exchange of information. When you put ten entrepreneurs in a room together, the creative energy is palpable. That’s why the concept of a mastermind is so powerful and I’ll be talking about that in future posts.
Even if you’re someone who requires frequent periods of solitude, which I do, you owe it to your business and your art to put yourself in a room with people who “get” you. Not a huge informational conference although some people do find those stimulating. ( I find them so draining and go into information overload quickly. It takes me days to recoup.) I’m suggesting you go to an interactive, live meeting of creative minds where everyone benefits from the exchange of ideas,feedback, brainstorming and problem solving.
Where do you find inspiration? Out in nature, while traveling, on a crowded subway, at a lumber yard? Of course you’re invited to share your sources of inspiration. We’d all love to know what makes you tick .