How to hunt and gather inspiration.

hunt The earliest artists were hunter-gatherers, and seriously? So are we.

They moved from meadow to meadow, terrain to terrain. Their pace followed the seasons, a different practice in the summer than in the winter. They stored up for times of hunger, adjusted as fields became fallow and as fruit became scarce. They understood drought, moving as water and weather took them.

Like them, we can't grow our own creative sustenance—those things that inspire and drive us. We have to go after it, gather it, and store it. We have always been and will always be hunter-gatherers. Thomas Merton said, "The imagination needs time to browse." So give yourself permission to browse, to wander around for the creative fodder you need.

To maximize your creativity, you must rely on a variety of sources:

  • Go on creative inner-pilgrimages to foreign artists' styles, or use foreign writing prompts.
  • Chase down the wildest color schemes or hunt down the secret to the golden mean in photography.
  • Look for inspiring input in "remote" places you've never visited: different books, galleries, forms of poetry.
  • Brave the unfamiliar terrain of new tools and techniques: software, plot style, composition techniques, etc.
  • Try new foods: take a course, read a new textbook, enroll in a class.
  • Explore your curiosities and questions! "[The artist] opens himself up to all influences—everything nourishes him. Everything is gravy to him, including what he does not understand—particularly what he does not understand." Henry Miller

I'd also recommend considering a seasonal or monthly (or moon-cycle) approach to gathering inspiration:

  • Which seasons yield the most inspiration? (Winter is beautifully introspective for me, summer is too busy.)
  • Focus on a certain creative input for a month then cycle to a fresh field of fodder the next month.
  • Choose themes or color schemes based on the weather and the season, letting nature guide you.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo or participate in a similar challenge for visual artists.
  • Set a creative goal for the season or the year, and see how far you can get with it. (My goal = 200 paintings. Due to an unforeseen serotonin drought this winter, I don't think I'm going to make it...)

Go after inspiration like our hunter-gather predecessors. Feed that starving inner-artist, and she will have the energy and vitality you need in order to live out your creative dreams.

A gentle word of caution: Those courses on marketing and social media are not necessarily creative fodder... While they do help you understand the business side of creativity, they don't invest in the creative side of your soul. When you consider courses and classesartist, look for experiences that will enrich your *creative process* not your *business process.* I know we have to live in both worlds, but the one that stirs your soul and raises your voice the world is your *creative process.* Focus on feeding your starving inner-—she probably doesn't wake up in the morning craving marketing strategies, she craves the sweetness of inspiration! Give it to her. Regularly.

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