Sometimes the world feels like it’s been painted over in shades of mud and gray. Sometimes, for so many of us, getting by is the best we can do. Eat, sleep, hydrate, exist. Work, take care of the needful. Rinse, repeat. And that’s normal. That’s how life works–we all have ups and downs, and the doldrums in-between. So how, fellow creators, do we find inspiration in not-so-inspiring times?
Not an easy question. No easy answers, either. In my experience, inspiration isn’t something I can call out on demand. I can’t message my Muse and demand a quick fix (seriously, she hasn’t ever given me her contact information so there’s that). More often than not, I’m sitting down to write, make maps, and dream up prompts in the middle of my everyday life activities, and inspiration doesn’t even remotely figure into the process. At least, not at first. I type, I muddle, I make notes, I distract myself with funny stuff my friends send on Discord, then I get back to typing and muddling. Suddenly, out of what feels like nowhere, an image strikes me. An idea, a character moment, a vision of a place I want to write into existence. It can be as simple as finally figuring out a name for that tiny town my adventurers will be visiting in a desperate attempt to rest and restock. Maybe I’ve figured out what the leytemple in Aixath (a place in my current Ahran Archives project) looks like both inside and out.
These inspired, a-ha moments can be fueled by the littlest things. Recently, we took a walk in a park where the fence–a very pointy iron affair–had menacing looking gargoyle/dragon heads every few posts, looking out over the park surrounding the monument they guarded. I took a picture and tucked the image away in my memory as a random delightful thing to have stumbled upon. Fast forward to yesterday when I was feeling a bit down and out, and trying to create something, ANYTHING. I scrolled through the photos on my phone while procrastinating, and came across the fierce iron guardian and bam, just like that, an idea hit me. An image of a dark and eerie gothic setting took shape in my mind and I was able to sit down and power through a map I’m so excited to share for next #mapmonday.
What exactly does this have to do with navigating through the doldrums of daily life to rich currents of inspiration? Everything. We creators are not guaranteed inspiration. Sometimes, we can barely even show up, even though showing up is the best place to start. The real magic happens when we show up and we stay. When we pick up the oars and paddle furiously (aka, type type type, put that stylus to work, tune that guitar and settle in, or whatever creativity looks like for you). A creative product, even if it’s only a few words in a notebook or a bit of line art, is a thing of beautiful everyday magic. And if we’re lucky, we’re rewarded for showing up: some little bit of inspirational flotsam hauled in from our daily life turns out to be a real treasure. Something as simple as a fencepost guardian, the fairy circle of mushrooms in a misty clearing you once saw, a spectacular stormy sky, or the way the lamplight hits a cup of water and turns it into shimmers can inspire you and transmute your creation into something truly magical.
The moral of the story? Look for magic in everyday life and treasure it when you find it. Take notes. Hope for inspiration, sure. But most of all, even when the seas are flat and quiet and endless shades of gray, stick with your work. We creators can’t rely on inspiration striking, bolt out of the blue style, and spurring us on to creativity. We have to make a habit of making space for inspiration. Sit down at that desk and write. Make yourself spend even half an hour a day on a project. Little everyday things, but things that add up to something truly wondrous–a creative project that brings you joy, and inspires others to set forth on creative adventures of their own!