Inspiration is the unconscious burst of creativity responsible for every great work that exists today. But finding it can be tricky, and any creator knows the frustration that can come with trying to do so.
Mary Jane Cole is an artist, and so she knows all too well the pains of trying to the perfect inspiration piece to create a project.
However, Cole doesn’t wait for inspiration to hit her. She is intentional about seeking it out and creating it even where there’s none.
Throughout her career, she’s discovered a few tricks that help eliminate some of the guesswork and help you find inspiration.
Change Your Environment
Your environment is the stimulus for your creativity, and it can either encourage or stifle it.
When Cole graduated from high school, she hopped from Utah to California to pursue her art. Part of the reason behind such a big move was getting inspiration.
California offered her a new place and a constant stream of stimulus that could keep her creativity buzzing.
But you don’t have to make such a drastic move. Simply redecorating or working in a different room can inspire so many new ideas.
Learn Something New
Your imagination is tethered, in some measure, to what you know. The more you know, the more you have to work with.
Cole discovered this while dealing with lockdown restrictions. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced her hours at her job and gave her an opening to pursue one of her long-time passions, tattooing.
She found that learning a new skill improved her overall artistry. “Every time I tattoo, I become a better painter and vice versa. She said. “Finding my style in one discipline carries over into the next, and I love being able to jump between mediums to express different ideas.”
Create a Plan
Sometimes it helps to write down your goals and plans for a project. Forcing yourself to put your ideas into words will help you create a concrete image of the final product you are trying to achieve. Along the way, you might even discover new ideas you didn’t know you had.
For Cole, goal setting is vital before starting any task. “I list everything I need to get done and then number the top 3 that I need to get done first.”
There’s a reason why countless works emphasize the beauty of nature. It is a great place to draw inspiration.
Cole herself often frequents nature to get her daily dose of inspiration. She calls herself a “hippie at heart,” and when she’s not working, she’s spending time in nature, whether that’s going on canyon rides, playing with her dogs, or simply sitting enjoying her surroundings.
Write down your ideas.
Cole is “extremely ADHD,” It is “a little bit of a blessing and a curse.”
On the upside, it means that she gets hyper-focused whenever she gets to work, but on the downside, sometimes these flashes of inspiration can come at really inconvenient times.
Her secret to capturing these random bursts of creativity is to write it all down immediately. It is quite a regular affair for Cole to jump out of bed at 4 am just to write down an idea or sketch a drawing that crossed her mind.
Learn from Your Peers
There are so many exceptional people out there, and you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t learn and draw inspiration from them.
Cole said, “Working with other professionals and seeing them excel inspires me,” when asked what inspired her. “I love teaching and sharing my passions and always feel like my best self when I’m making someone feel better about themselves or teaching a skill that will make a difference in someone’s life. There are so many incredible stories out there, and everyone inspires me in some way.”
Get a mentor
Having a mentor to guide you will be invaluable for your creativity. You can pick their brain and gain valuable knowledge that they have amassed over their career.
For Cole, that person is Dean Bradshaw. “He is so talented at combining the dramatic artificial light and feel of commercial photos with a subject matter that feels very candid and tells a story. She said when asked about him. She’s drawn inspiration for so many of her projects from watching his work.
Watch a great Show
Depending on what you’re watching, Tv can either be an inspiration or a creative bock.
Watch shows that inspire you and provoke your thoughts.
Cole’s favorite show is a Netflix series called Tales by light. “Each episode is about a different photographer, and every one of them inspires me so deeply. They each have such a strong moral purpose to the work they’re doing and are making social and environmental changes that matter through their art.”
It is great to plan and gather your inspiration before starting a project, but sometimes you just have to start to get those creative juices flowing.
“I think any artist will tell you that you can’t plan too much. Nothing ever goes to plan, and you’ll squash the authentic creative ideas if you try to fit them into a box too much.”