People love talking about inspiration. Interviewers and fans love to ask creatives and innovators, "What inspires you?" A quick Google search brings up a slew of articles with surefire tips and techniques to draw out inspiration—anytime, anywhere. Even the way we define the word "inspiration" makes it sound like there is a reservoir that—once found—will solve all your creative problems forever. As much as we may want it to be, that simply isn't true.
Don't get me wrong, inspiration is an important part of the creative process, and we all experience sudden bursts of ideas from time to time. I get many of my own ideas from books, conversations with friends and family, stories of amazing people, beautiful works of art, and nature walks. However, I would like to suggest a different way to approach inspiration.
I like to think of "inspiration" as "inhalation." (Now stick with me on this.) When we breathe in, we take in everything in the air—nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide—and breathe out what our body doesn't need. When working on new ideas, I find the best approach is to take in everything around me, process those diverse perspectives and the thoughts they bring. Then set aside what I don't need, and move forward with the bits that seem valuable. Most often, good ideas come from researching, actively practicing the craft and sussing through lots of bad ideas until the best rise to the top.
It's not romantic, and often it's not fun. I wish that all the inspiration and motivation I would ever need was only a book or daily nature walk away, but it's not. It takes knuckling down every day and forging ahead to see what I discover. Even then, some "great ideas" fall flat, while some half-baked ideas are the unique solution I was looking for. It doesn't always make sense. Then, when I least expect it, inspiration does come, and it really is as magical as they say.
“Hand Lettering 101” is an ongoing series that discusses various topics on hand lettering, including the creative process and behind the scenes.