The Pursuit of Inspiration

Part of the practice of creativity is the pursuit of inspiration! We need to seek out new things to inspire us, and also return to old favorites to be reinvigorated again. One is about width and the other is about depth.

If you only take in the new, it’s hard to develop an artistic viewpoint. 

If you only stick to the stuff you already know, you risk becoming stagnant. 


Here’s the thing…there’s a glut of media out there and you have to do a lot of sifting to find the exceptional stuff. Great works of art are still being made (and there’s a ton of old stuff you just haven’t discovered yet), but it doesn’t feel like it because they’re obscured by an ocean of mediocrity. It’s the job of a dedicated artist to engage with the slog - I call this process “garbaging.” This is a way to develop “width” in your artistic perspective.

The content of the past has already been sorted into the YES and NO piles, so it’s easy to think that there was more of it “back then.” The reality is that you already know where the good stuff is and it’s easy to find. The organization and categorization of it into the YES pile makes it seem more abundant.

The good news about great work is that is keeps on giving. Once you find a book, movie, or record that truly moves you, you can return to it again and again and soak up more nuance. Things you didn’t see, hear, or understand the last time will show themselves to you now. The work will mean new things based on who you are in this moment. Revisiting good works over and over again is a way to develop “depth” in your artistic perspective. 

So…pay attention to the people who made the work that moves you. Find out what influenced them in the past or what they are excited about right now.  That’s a good way to cut some of the “garbaging” out of the process. It’s also important to connect the dots between different artists and ideas…when you have a lot of dots connected then you have a much deeper bag of ideas to draw from when you are doing your own work. 

Two things I love that I revisited again and was freshly moved by:

The Cardigans Long Gone Before Daylight. Is this a perfect record? Maybe. Writing, arrangement, production…it still knocks me out and I appreciate new things about it every time I listen.

Andy Goldsworthy Rivers and Tides. There’s an incredible amount of beauty and resonance in Andy Goldsworthy’s art, and this documentary shows it in a beautiful way. 

One thing that’s new to me and really influencing me right now:

Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist. (disclosure…a few stolen ideas from from this book made its way into this email). This book is already a classic, but I really absorbed it for the first time recently. So. Much. Good. Advice.

Good luck and enjoy the process!