This is an interesting question, one that I have been pondering for several months because it seems I am often struck with creative inspiration at inopportune times, like when I need sleep.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love addresses this question in a fascinating Ted Talk on Creativity. I encourage anyone interested in the sources of their own creative process to watch it.
In case you skipped it, she discusses the Ancient Greeks view of creative inspiration as they relied on muses. Creative Greeks believed that they were merely conduits of a message or artistic inspiration which they then relayed. Even Homer opens The Odyssey with the lines, “Muse, tell me of the man of many wiles.” He then relates Odysseus’ story through his poetry.
Homer takes no credit whatsoever for an epic poem that has survived some 3000 years – that’s impressive, especially since in our day and age people seem to want credit for every little thing they achieve (or fail to achieve).
Neuroscientists would argue that there is a physiological source of creativity. It lives in the right brain, while our left brain controls our language, logic, and analytical skills.
Others might argue creative inspiration comes everywhere. We are inspired by beautiful music, dear friends, a walk in nature.
For me, creativity comes from all of the above: my muses, my creative brain, and my environment. Ralph Waldo Emerson captured this idea in 1841 when he wrote, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine Providence has found for you; the society of your contemporaries, the connexion of events. Great men have always done so and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age.”
In other words, trust in that creative spark that is within you and without and refuse to conform to society’s expectations. Instead, embrace an act on those creative impulses. That is the gist of his essay “Self Reliance.”
To be great, we must live up to our individual potential and reject the parameters society has put on us. However, divine inspiration does not mean that there is no work involved in creating; it can be difficult, but it can also be so much fun.
Where do you find creativity? What inspires you? Is it your muses? Music?
In the comments below, share your favorite strategy for getting inspired and finding that creative zone.