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Bottle Your Inspiration
Where to find and collect magic
Inspiration can come from ANYWHERE & EVERYWHERE. IF you’re paying attention. You can feel inspired while doing a million things from the mundane to the exotic. For example watching a sunset, observing a rain storm, jumping in the ocean, walking through a garden, hiking to the top of a mountain, or watching my kids play all inspire me and encourage me to be creative. Just writing those words make happy images dance in my head. The bigger question to me is how do you bottle it? How do you find your brand of inspiration, collect the magic of it, filter the rough edges, and bottle it’s energy for another day?
Each month, members of the IlloGuild answer a question together. We all live around the world, have unique styles, and approaches to creativity. Depending on how busy everyone is, different members answer each month. So, make sure to follow IlloGuild to hear a variety of illustrator perspectives!
Our 15th question is:
Where do you find inspiration?
is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something,
especially to do something creative
First, find your brand of inspiration!
1. Look in your favorite spots.
Look in the places you love. We are all different, look where you feel the most drawn to. Like your special reading nook. Your garden. Cuddling your loved ones. Doing your favorite craft or activity. It’s the happy places that inspire us the most. Your favorite songs, movies, or books hold secrets to what fascinates you. Going for a walk or hike in nature, enjoying your loved ones, or cooking your favorite meal make sparks fly. Actively participate in the things you love. That’s it. So simple. The juiciest stories and visual goodness are just under your nose. Your every day life is a goldmine of inspired magic. The inspiration that comes from what you already know and cherish is a magnetic force that feels natural and comforting. It is warm and familiar, so it’s often taken for granted and overlooked.
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2. Go somewhere new.
Alternately, to find lively, wild inspiration you go somewhere new... the beach, mountains, playground, library, science museum, or anywhere that is different then normal. Take a class. Attend a seminar. See a play. Eat at a new restaurant. Visit a new city. Go to a concert. Participate in your sport of choice. Attend any event that celebrates life like a firework show, balloon glow, or a farmers market! All these things can spark active energy. Being somewhere new – heightens our senses, opens our minds, and fills our hearts with fresh curiosity! This inspiration is unpredictable and bright.
3. Connect with other people.
Connect with other people to find quilted inspiration. Inspiration doesn’t live in a vacuum. It’s what connects us all! Ideas are bouncing and flowing from other people all the time. Friends, family, or even strangers hold pieces of the quilt like missing pieces to a puzzle. Connecting with others is like dipping into a well full of magic. There’s a special thread that binds us as humans. You might not feel it, but it’s ever present when we connect with each other. Join a critique group or book club, brainstorm with friends and co-workers, or participate in a competition or prompt group (like the one I host with friends called Friday Doodle Club). You will see how inspiration flows and ideas grow when we share thoughts and ideas with each other!
4. Take a break and relax.
If you are having trouble finding inspiration – Often, you just need a break. Your receptors for taking in inspiration might be frazzled. This can mean taking a nap, meditating, soaking your feet, doing yoga, gardening, doing a puzzle, playing a game, listening to music, or doing anything that relaxes you and makes you happy. Taking a break can help reduce stress, increase your overall well-being, improve your mood, recharge your energy, and clear your mind. Don’t be surprised if afterwards inspiration suddenly hits you like lightening. Bright and fierce!
5. Change the subject and try a repetitive activity.
Along those lines, inspiration often arrives while doing something totally mundane and monotonous… like washing the dishes, driving, taking a shower, or anything repetitive. In my eyes your brain is like a factory and there are a series of levers being pulled at any given time. Levers that help you access the different pieces you need. Allowing everything to connect and flow smoothly. It doesn’t matter if you’re exhausted or well rested, ideas and concepts might pile up accidentally when you’re concentrating too hard. If nothing is making sense, it might be time to release the pressure a bit! It doesn’t always mean you need to take a complete break or vacation from your problems! You just need to change the subject for a minute. Do something that distracts you from the creative task at hand. Just walk away from whatever you’re working on and try doing something completely different. There is a distinction from procrastination, which means you’re avoiding work vs. taking a short moment to release some pressure. Cook dinner, play catch, take a quick lunch walk, water your garden, organize your drawer, or play a card game. Often times, inspiration breaks free and ideas or solutions suddenly pop into your head – inspiration released, like gunk trapped along the edges of life.
Now that you’ve found it, collect the magic!
You NEED an Inspiration Catcher. That’s right. Inspiration starts as a feeling and a mood, but as it flows through you quickly it turns into something tangible. Perhaps images and words. Maybe music notes or dance moves. Thoughts out of thin air. Where are you going to put these images and feelings? Loose paper is fine. A napkin works in a pinch. I’ve even written things in my “Notes app” on my phone. Maybe you need to record your voice or take a video. Sure you can hope that you remember, but how many times have you realized whatever you thought of just flew right out your head. Unless, of course it’s the kind of inspiration that is living in your head rent free. Then you can’t get rid of it even if you try.
Either way, try to have at least one of these “professional tools” handy:
Camera or video recorder (your camera phone is perfect)
Sketchbook or Journal (doesn’t matter what size, lined or not lined…no big deal)
pencil, paint, marker, or crayon (you need something to make marks with)
A small bag for foraged items (not required, but helpful)
The most important tool: ALL your senses!
Instead of just using your visual senses, try the other ones too. When you get that “oh! wow” feeling and you know something is giving you goosebumps or demanding your attention – Listen to the sounds around you, feel the moment on your skin, smell the air, taste the whole experience if you can, physically touch things around you and notice your genuine response. Try to sense the energy and vibe whether you are somewhere familiar or somewhere new. Try to match the moment. Stay calm and relaxed. Or if the moment calls for it… be loud, jump, and sing! The point is to be fully present in the moment. Soak it in. Make mental notes. Memorize it. This is how you can be inspired by past memories too. Try recalling all your senses from that moment. Then you might find inspiration that is direct, sparkly and clear. It comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and energies, but if you find it… it’s is strong and bold.
Next, you filter the rough edges.
Don’t skip this step! What do all these sketches and scribblings even mean? Now you have a random stream of photos in your camera or mind. Why were you so obsessed in the first place? Your inspiration is now becoming an idea and it needs to be refined. What will it turn into? A full blown painting? A story? A poem? A song? A new invention? Sometimes it’s clear as day and you begin producing inspired art immediately.
If it’s not as clear and your inspiration is still just a feeling or mood buzzing around…here are some ways to filter it down:
Spend time with it. This is very important. Just sit with it. Let it float in your mind. As it bounces off your experiences and memories…it starts to take form.
Draw sketches from your memory, photos, or notes.
Make more notes. It can just be a description of what inspired you. How did you feel in that moment? How did all your senses react? Why did you feel inspired? What did it remind you of? Connect it to another part of your life experience.
Write or draw a little longer piece from the your initial note. Maybe a poem or a letter to someone you love. Processing it this way might extract bigger more tangible ideas.
Play with a color palette or paint swatches.
Hum a tune you think fits this inspiration. Or listen to a playlist that pairs well.
Let it lead you. Guide you. Tell you what it wants to be.
Finally, bottle your inspiration for later.
The main reason to bottle anything is for later use. Life does go on. Something caught your attention, but you might not be ready to do anything with it just yet. Maybe you had a wild dream and wrote down a few notes about it. Now you need to bottle it for when you’re ready to access it again.
Organize a folder with the photos that inspired you.
Keep a consistent sketchbook or journal to have all your ideas in one place.
Collect all your loose sheets and napkins and scan them or photograph them so you can store in one spot and not lose them.
Try to have a theme, organize it by that theme.
Make a Mood Board. Pinterest is a lovely digital tool for doing just that.
Include everything you captured, foraged, and felt.
Keep it in a safe place.
Trust me, if you take the time to actually process your inspiration, you’ll be able to go right back to it when you’re ready or when you need it – bottled and ready to inspire you once more. But you should know… bottled magic has a shelf life. Once it’s bottled it’s ready to come to life! Don’t wait too long to use it or you’ll notice the magic might be gone. It might find someone else who’s ready to nurture and grow it. So, handle your bottled inspiration with some urgency.
However, no worries if you lose it! …you know just how to find more!
Now, if you are wondering what to do with the inspiration you found and bottled once it’s become a living, breathing idea – I talk all about it in an older Substack called Chasing an idea. I share and show examples of how I caught an idea, cared for it, and completed illustrations for Folktale Week 2022. It takes a bit of love and patience…
Head over to IlloGuild page to read other responses!
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