Creativity = Inspiration + Discipline

April 27, 2017

For me, creativity exists in two places: the social, inspired place and the isolated, disciplined place. I think a large part of being a creative person is cultivating the two and knowing when to be where.

I use the Internet as a tool to educate and expose myself to new ideas. I use Pinterest to save compelling images, YouTube to research new techniques and search engines to learn about the lives of interesting creative people. At some point, I have to let my digital psyche simmer. There are so many spectacular artists and craftspersons displaying their work on the web that it’s easy to lose track of time, just as I have a hard time pulling myself out of libraries. The information is endless. So I go out into the world and gather more inspiration, explore landscapes and architecture and art shows and live music, travel, meet new people. This fuels the fire, especially when I meet someone who is also compelled by the same ideas and has complimentary knowledge. And at some point, that has to rest too.

The opposite of inspiration is discipline, which is a sharp-dopamine drop from the hyper-stimulated inspired state and feelings of discovery, uniqueness and elation. At that point, I have to condense the original vision, tune out the rest and get to work. It’s fun creating the vision and being inspired; the work is satisfying in a different way. Building the vision requires concentration and a certain narrow-mindedness to bring it to completion. It is deeply rewarding to convert the fleeting electro-chemical reactions of thoughts into tangible objects.

Once I cross the threshold from inspired to disciplined, I can’t go back or else I risk losing motivation. When I’m in my isolated, disciplined place I really can’t be tempted by anyone else’s ideas. Just a taste could send me off on another trajectory. Which is why I often work solo on art and hobby code projects. Inspiration can be mildly addictive!