How to Notice Creative Inspiration and Transcribe Ideas from Mind to Matter

In celebration of one year of supporting myself through my art practice, I thought I'd share with you the best part: catching creative ideas and making them sit still while I make them into a print, or a book, or something else. Don't get me wrong, 100% of my work day is not occupied with this fizzy magic, but enough of it is. At the bottom of the page are a few sketchbook spreads that show what this looks like in practice.


Hold still. 

Feel the vibrating intensity that rolls up from your fingertips, through your shoulders, and into your chest. Don't scare the idea away by breathing too sharply. 

Tune out the world. If you can't make space for the bits of inspiration that are settling in your mind then they may just drift away. Close your eyes, or take off your glasses, unfocus from the exterior. 

When you're ready, when the idea starts to feel less skittish and more solid, try applying words to it, silently, in your head. If you like, You can make a little sketch, jot down a few notes, or better still, keep things ephemeral for a little bit, lest you focus on the wrong piece and lose sight of why the idea is special.

If you have a collaborator, start throwing half-finished ideas at them in whatever order they come out of your mouth or through your keyboard. Pay attention to what they respond to, what causes them to use heart-eye and surprise-face reacts. Note down their questions and try to keep up with the inspiration as you send back and forth a flurry of google image screenshots, "does that make sense?" check-ins, and videos of little folded-paper mockups.

Laugh together when those early vibrations evolve into contagious full body shakes. Feel the awe for a minute like "did that come from me?"

Think about the space where you would share this creative work. Partake of the absurd “what will you wear to the gallery opening” question, which is equally silly and useful. How will people react to it? Is the brilliance of this idea obvious, or does it require careful explanation? Can people discover it for themselves, or must it be revealed to them?

Realize how uncannily similar this idea is to something you've already done or thought of, and recognize how much it has improved since then, with the addition of this or that little detail, or shift in perspective.

Follow the compulsion to do the math. How many materials at what size and compared to which other sized materials (spare a moment to consider shipping delays if you are in the middle of a pandemic). Now is the time to make seven sketches of almost exactly the same thing. 

What if...? Follow that tangent.

Consider cost and potential income. There's no need to be scared or shy away from this part, being paid to do creative work is exciting! Gently shush the voices in your head (or outside it) that call this part bad or selfish. 

Record as much as you can while the ideas are still flowing through you in this torrent. Allow it to slow to a trickle, a murmured "aha" two hours later while you're making dinner that results in a little food smear in your notebook.

This is crucial:

Sleep on it before you tell the world, or clear your schedule, or buy hundreds of dollars worth of materials. If it's less shiny after 8 hours of rest, that's okay. There was adrenaline mixed in there probably. This doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing. Pursuing a thing even when it's not shiny anymore is a version of artistry. 


It's also okay to let it go, to know that this idea isn't for you, or isn't for right now. The good ones come back (see above).


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