You can’t speak before you take a breath. And in art, you can’t create without having been inspired by something. Whether that is a book, a painting or just your backyard, artists don’t pull something from nothing, no matter how much we want to think that’s true.
But often when we try and start (or finish) a project, we are so focused on our own page or canvas or lens that we push everything else away, either because we’re worried about being influenced or because we think it’s taking away precious time and energy from our work.
This is a big mistake.
People are, by nature, sponges, and artists even more so. Something in a movie, a song or an interesting carpet design can launch a new idea and not only should working artists be trying every moment to keep their eyes and ears open for new ways to tackle their art, but if you are finding yourself facing a dead-end, then it’s not the time to lock yourself away with your work, but to immerse yourself in the work of others.
Start reading again. Go back to staring at paintings. Reopen those photo books and begin flipping through. Fill yourself with all that great talent and creativity until you’re bursting with it. Then, with all the newfound inspiration, face that dead end again. See how much smaller it looks and how many new tricks and tips you’ve picked up to keep going. Don’t worry about being influenced — focus on doing it the way it works for you, and soon it will be 100% yours.
There is something in our past that sparked us to be artists. It’s what first filled us with the excitement of creation. But becoming inspired is not just a starting point — we continually need it. It’s the breath we need to speak and what we should be depending on whenever we need help.
As Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”