Just because I believe that inspiration and the skill to fulfill it are best bought with persistent and focused labor doesn’t mean I don’t think it lies all around for the taking, too. There’s just so much astounding and strange and beautiful and fun stuff in every imaginable cranny of the world that the real charge here must be to keep all senses twitching at all times, not least of all the antennae of intuition. And I also lean toward the ‘it’s all been done already’ theory of creative endeavor, wherein pretty much every grand idea in history has very possibly already been had and it’s our pleasure and somewhat difficult responsibility to somehow recombine the DNA of our arts into something new and wonderful that’s now our own. So I have no hesitation about going shopping amongst all kinds of artworks extant for a better chance of gathering useful inspirations from them to move me toward my own next project.
When I go to an art exhibition I’m not only basking in the inherent attractions of the works hanging on the walls and filling up the galleries but also filing away molecules of inspiring marvels and, not least of all, building up a slight head of steam that makes me antsy to get into the studio again myself. When I attend a concert, dance, play or other performance, I’m absorbing whatever tremendous artistry, craft, skill, design, and magic came together to make the moments possible, and on the side, I’m mentally revising, redesigning, rehashing and reinventing on my terms every aspect I can imagine, making it mine. It need not diminish my admiration for the work in hand, but rather tends to let it bloom in every direction as an expanding universe of potential artistry. Granted, I am no dancer, haven’t acted since high school (unless you count acting competent, or like I’m not scared, when the occasion requires), and I’m certainly no great shakes as a musician of any sort. But I’ve attempted each just enough of each to appreciate the fineness of what I’m seeing when I sit at the feet of masters.
Even when I dine, the food and its preparation and context can provide a wild cornucopia of not only tasty satisfaction and belly filling sustenance but also another source of artful inspiration of every sensory variety. It might lead to more food (a grand enough goal, to be sure), might lead instead to some seemingly unrelated object’s invention.
Most directly of all, reading stuff that makes me shiver with happiness or shock or reverie or any other sort of appreciation has a strong tendency to get the creative juices flowing–specifically, toward my pen point.
It’s all, and always, research as it happens. Right down to the purposeful hours I spend staring into nebulous space after the fact, looking for that miraculous confluence of thought word and deed that will combine all of my life’s experience into the right synchronous process of art-making to produce my next inspired work. Luck, be thou a true lady . . . tonight, tomorrow, forevermore. Muse, approach.