Why You Should Make Art When You’re Feeling Uninspired

2016 Artwork Make Art When You're Uninspired article sketch

I’m sure that I’ve probably talked about this topic at least a few times before, but I was feeling uninspired and I couldn’t think of a better idea for an article, so I thought that I’d talk about it again.

One of the things that I learnt when I decided to practice making art (and writing non-fiction) regularly is that being uninspired isn’t the terrible thing that people often think that it is.

Yes, being uninspired is disappointing and annoying, but it isn’t the fearsome behemoth that it can sometimes seem to be if you don’t make things regularly.

These days, when I’m feeling uninspired, all it usually means is that whatever art or non-fiction I produce will drop in quality slightly, it might be somewhat repetitive and/or it’ll take longer than usual. However, I’ll still end up with something.

The idea that you always have to be “inspired” to make art is something of a myth. Yes, inspiration can help a lot, but the thing that really counts is actually making something. Although that “something” might be absolutely terrible, it’s still important to make it for several reasons.

The first reason is because it quite literally changes your mind. If you make art regularly, even when you’re uninspired, then you’ll get used to making art. Making art won’t seem like such a big deal to you. It’ll just become an ordinary part of your daily or weekly routine. Although keeping a schedule even when you’re uninspired can be difficult at first, it’s worth sticking to because it’ll also change the way that you think about inspiration.

After quite a while, your thought procesess will gradually start to shift from “Oh god! I can’t think of an idea for a painting! I’m going to miss my deadline!” to “Well, I’ll have a painting by the end of today. I wonder what it will be and how I’ll make it?“. It’s a subtle difference, but a very important one.

So, although making art when you’re uninspired (however terrible, bland, unoriginal or simplistic it ends up being) might not seem like it’s doing much for you at the time, it is actually gradually building up your confidence. It’s kind of like “levelling up” in old-school RPG games.

If you keep making art regularly, regardless of inspiration of quality, then uninspiration gradually goes from being a major barrier, to being an enjoyably challenging puzzle that you have to solve. It becomes a puzzle that you know that you will solve, the only question is “how?

And, if you continuously push yourself to make art even when you’re feeling uninspired, then you’re going to find solutions to this problem. Different things work for different types of uninspiration, but all types of uninspiration can be solved. The question goes from being “Woe and gloom! I’m uninspired! When will this unbearable misery end?” to “I’m uninspired again, how will I solve it this time?

Sometimes the solution might be to draw something you’ve already drawn before. Sometimes, the solution might be to make a type of art that you consider to be “easy” (eg: for me, this is usually landscape and still life paintings).

Sometimes, the solution might be to just start sketching randomly and see what emerges. Sometimes, the solution might be to listen to a different type of music whilst painting. Sometimes the solution is just to produce terrible art until good art starts emerging again. Sometimes, the solution is to make something topical. Sometimes, the solution is… Well, I could go on for a while.

Making art regularly, even when you’re uninspired, will slowly give you a similar mindset to this. So, even if you produce something terrible when you’re uninspired, then you’re still building your confidence and learning different techniques for getting around uninspiration.

If you only make art when you’re inspired, then you’re never going to learn any of this.

But, you might ask, why is it so important to learn this stuff?

It’s important because it makes you feel more in control of your own art (as opposed to having to wait for “inspiration”). It’s important because literally no-one feels inspired 100% of the time.

It’s also important because it makes you feel like a badass when you finally get to the point where you can still produce vaguely acceptable art when you’re uninspired.

But, most of all, it’s important because of the way that inspiration itself works. If you tend to “show up on time” and make art regularly, then your “uninspired” times will often be significantly shorter than they would be if you only pick up a pen, pencil or paintbrush when you feel incredibly inspired. Don’t ask me how this works, but it does.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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