In spite of the great idea

Sunday, March 19, 2017 - 5:57pm

One of the largest obstacles to creation is the development of the idea behind it. Often one may sit and wait, wondering what to make, what to write about or where to draw inspiration from.

Often, I find myself waiting for inspiration to hit, hoping it will immediately come when I start a work of art. As a former dancer and choreographer, I would stand in the studio in complete stillness, with no ideas and no movement. The idea would never come, and I would choreograph in desperation, aching for a breakthrough. Eventually, choreography would be created, usually due to an impending deadline.

Some people argue that inspiration is unnecessary, that waiting for inspiration is a mechanism for artists to hide their fear. I have had art teachers dismiss the notion of “inspiration,” saying it has nothing to do with creation. Creation, they would say, comes from doing and not waiting. One could wait for years and have nothing to show for it. These art teachers would also say that waiting for inspiration is a tactic used to let your fears fester inside of you, convincing you to never pick up the pen, marker or paintbrush.  

This is partially true. Fear is often what holds you back from reaching greater potentials. However, the work done without inspiration can be more significant than the work done with the great big idea. This work contains the true grit of an artist, who pushes past the fear and insecurities and has the courage to create something, without the framework of an idea. It contains the true essence of the artist who lost his way in the process of creation but still himself along the way, just enough to make something. The pieces I have created in desperation are the most accurate representations of my work, because they reflected the dedication it took for me to keep going.

I have had other art teachers tell me that a great idea is very much needed, but not at the beginning. I understand parts of this argument, whether or not art needs inspiration, because inspiration does serve a purpose. It fuels artists with a drive to continue doing what they do, bringing forth an energy and appreciation for art. Instead of stopping you in the beginning, it feeds you a little bit at a time, getting you through the exhaustive process of creation. I have started out with nothing, only to find inspiration at the smallest moments in a dance, giving me enough to remember why I love it and continue to do what I do.

This does not mean that the great idea does not exist. While it is not a myth, it is rare, which is why it is important to keep creating despite the great idea. Pushing through without a huge surge of inspiration gives artists the backbone of their practices. It creates discipline, training artists in preparation for their masterpiece. It gives the technique, willpower and artistry needed to really polish their work.

In this way, artists and intellectuals are similar. We all need to establish foundations in our work. We all go through days of frustration, wishing we had a spark of inspiration to keep us going. We all push through, forcing ourselves to continue on the work that we have already spent so much time on.

But we will not always have this spark at the beginning. We may not even have this spark in the middle of the process or at the end — despite this, we must keep creating. Because one day, we will get that great idea, and we will be more than ready for it. In the meantime, we must find the significance behind the work we do without inspiration, because this work is a part of us too, containing our true artistic grit and determination.