AIArt InquisitionGeneral Art

Art Inquisition: What inspires you?

After working long hours fighting the good fight against PowerPoint and .jpgs shoved unceremoniously into Word documents, it’s incredibly hard to come home and be inspired to hang out in front of my computer for a few more hours to make more stuff. Regardless of whether said stuff would be way cooler and more awesome than anything I’d done while listening to other people’s conversations over 9-inch-high “cubicle” walls, despite the fact that I’d woken up in the morning with six impossible ideas before breakfast an idea for a really fun wotsit I’d like to play with, I still have dinner to make, laundry to do, cats to scoop up after, and ugh why can’t I just make cool stuff all the time? (An hour commute each way, shoved into a 17-inch-wide seat between a sherpa guide and a twitchy dude picking his nose, does not help anything.)

Sure, I can shore up my day with stuff like Clients from Hell, @PREPRESSHULK and @design_txt, knowing I’m not alone. I can look at Designspiration, Smashing Magazine, Brain Pickings, Behance, Design Feast, the Dieline… and that’s just a bit of what’s in my immediate browser history, but it kinda just makes me depressed that there’s all this great creativity out there and I have contributed nothing to it. Which doesn’t help much either. I’ve tried setting aside time, but I’m never “feeling it” on a schedule. I’ve tried getting more sleep… but that never happens. I’ve tried staying home to be around my supplies more, I’ve tried getting out to have new experiences, I’ve gone to conferences and meetups, but I still have stacks of materials and ideas that have yet to be used.

So what do you do? How do you get inspired? What gets you going creatively? Where do you find inspiration? Do you listen to music, seek total silence, get away from it all, Google random words, do something totally unrelated, scribble in coloring books, try an unfamiliar medium? How do I light that fire under my own ass and get making?

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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  1. Nothing inspires me quite like seeing other people create things. This may have to wait for a relevant tweet to pop up or to run into the right person at the right time, but workspace snapshots and works-in-progress are the best encouragement for me to get off my butt and do something of my own. Most folks don’t show off what they’ve done until it’s finished (I’m usually guilty of this myself), and I wish everyone were inclined to share their process more.

  2. Ooo, I’m guilty of the same thing, I don’t even like people being around while I’m making stuff. No peeking over my shoulder! No wandering into the room! It ent done yet!

    Even my “process” has to be edited before I’ll show it. I *do* love process, though.

  3. My response is sort of similar, in that I get inspired by other people’s art. Back when I wrote songs, I always wanted to go home and write something new after going to a great concert.

    With cooking/cocktails, it’s way more personal. I’m either inspired by my own appetite, or by the tastes of those I get to cook for.

  4. Deadlines.

    Deadlines. I use them all the time. Got a project that I want to do for myself (as opposed to someone paying me to do)? A lifetime of living with myself has taught me: if it doesn’t have a deadline, then the deadline is probably going to turn out to be “never”.

    But a deadline forces me to prioritize. It forces me to bite the bullet and actually schedule some time. It forces me to be realistic and admit, ahead of time, that I’m not going to get anything done during the week, so it’s got to be finished by Sunday night even if it’s due on Thursday. It forces me to scale back to setting realistic goals (i.e. not letting the awesome be the enemy of the doable).

    And, sometimes, it forces me to take a sick day from work. (Please don’t tell on me.)

    Sometimes just setting a random deadline is enough to get me off my duff, but usually there needs to be some kind of consequence for missing the deadline. Boasting to friends about what I’m going to have accomplished ahead of time is a great motivator, I’ve discovered. Another one is having other people — working on their own tasks, but on the same deadline.

    I’ve participated in Nanowrimo eight times. Let me tell you, whenever I’d get tired of writing and want to give up, I’d go and look at all my friends’ word counts. If I let myself fall into last place, that would trigger the fear that would get me back in front of the keyboard again. I’m not at all a competitive person, but what little competitiveness I do have is still enough, I’ve found, to harness.

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