If you’re an artist or a writer, then it’s important to have lots of inspirations (but, be sure that you know how to take inspiration properly). But, of course, being “well-read” when it comes to books, art, games, comics, films etc.. generally tends to be a bit on the expensive side of things.
So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips on how to find inspirations relatively cheaply. Since I want to write a general guide, I won’t be mentioning specific shops or specific commercial media. But, I’ll link to free media – like in my articles about free cyberpunk inspirations and free pirate-themed inspirations.
1) It’s an attitude: There’s a certain mindset that you have to have when it comes to finding entertaining creative inspirations on a low budget.
For starters, you have to know yourself reasonably well. Having a good understanding of the types of thing that you really like (and which really inspire you) can be incredibly useful for the simple reason that you’ll be able to spot cheap things (that you’ve never heard of) that might fit into this category. This focus on self-knowledge also provides something of a bulwark against things like marketing hype etc… for newer and more expensive things too.
Secondly, you have to be somewhat patient too. We live in a culture where there’s a lot of emphasis on having the “latest” things, just because they’re new. Often, slightly older stuff is just as good or better – plus, it’s cheaper. Yes, getting used to this time gap can take a while, but it is a really good attitude to take. Plus, it also means that you’ll be a lot more selective on the few occasions that you actually buy “new” stuff too.
Thirdly, you have to be a little bit open-minded too. Often, things that are cheap may not be the things you are initially looking for. But thinking more abut price can be a great chance to discover books, films, TV shows, games etc… that you’ve never heard of before. Plus, since they cost less, there’s more incentive to try new things (rather than going for the “safe bet”) too. But, as I mentioned earlier, be sure that you have a very good understanding of your tastes and sensibilities.
2) Public domain stuff: Although copyright limits vary from country to country, it is a general principle of copyright law that once a certain number of years have passed after the death of a writer, artist etc… then the copyright on their works expires. As such, these works can legally be freely distributed on the internet, read, downloaded, borrowed from etc…
Although this time gap is fairly long (eg: in the UK and mainland Europe, it’s 70 years post-mortem. The rules are different in the US though) you’d be surprised at how many interesting copyright-free historical paintings and novels can be found on sites like Project Gutenberg (for novels) and Wikimedia Commons (which also contains lots of more modern images that have been released under various Creative Commons licences too).
3) Second-hand books/DVDs and libraries: This is kind of obvious, but libraries, second-hand books & DVDs etc.. are often your best bet when it comes to being “well-read” on the cheap.
In addition to this, there’s a certain amount of chance and randomness too. Whether you’re searching library shelves or looking at second-hand shops and/or websites that sell second-hand stuff, they will often contain things that you’ve never heard of before. And, since it’s cheaper, you can often afford to take a chance on new things too. So, this can often help you to find new creative inspirations that you’ve even never thought of before. It also means that you have to focus more on quality (and your own tastes) than on what is “popular” at the moment too.
If you don’t mind a little bit of a time gap between the things you read/watch/listen to and current culture, then things like libraries, second-hand shops etc… can often be your best bet when it comes to being “well-read” on the cheap.
Plus, buying second-hand encourages you to be a lot more selective with any “new” full-price purchases that you make too. Then again, one cool thing about Blu-Ray discs appearing is that the price of new DVDs has dropped somewhat within the past few years (eg: they’re mostly about £10 these days. Which is still a little pricey, but better than – say- ten years ago).
4) Games And Gaming: One of the largest costs associated with gaming is the actual hardware itself. Trying to keep up to date with modern gaming is an endless and expensive task. But, as flashy and cool as modern gaming culture and marketing can often seem, you don’t need an ultra-fast system or the latest games to be a gamer or to be inspired by gaming.
Seriously, there’s a lot to be said for ultra low-spec retro/indie computer gaming when it comes to creative inspiration. Not only can you play these games on much cheaper/older computers, but they are often better (or as good) than everything I’ve seen about modern large-budget games. Seriously, fun is timeless!
Older games (from the 1990s and early-mid 2000s) often had to be creative with the limitations of the hardware of the time, which often means that they leave more to the imagination. Likewise, modern low-spec 2D indie games will often also have to be creative within budget limitations too. In addition to this, many older games usually inspired more modern games (and will often have more fan-made stuff on the internet too).
The best way to buy commercial games of this type is via legitimate direct download sites, for the simple reason that the games will often be updated to run on slightly more recent (but still old/ low-spec) hardware. Most of these sites will often have sales every week or at certain times of the year, which can often be worth watching.
In addition to this, if you’re willing to look, you can also find a lot of games on the internet that can legally be downloaded and/or played for free. But, be sure to look for non-commercial games that have been made by hobbyists or for former commercial games that were later officially released as freeware. Conversely, be very, very wary of modern “free to play” games that contain microtransactions.
Some examples of proper (microtransaction-free) freeware games, in various genres, include “The Last Night“, “Hacx 1.2“, “Harmony“, “Beneath A Steel Sky“, “Tyrian 2000“, “Treasure Adventure Game“, “Freedoom“, “Rosemary“, “SuperTux“, “Hurrican“, “SkyRoads” , “Flight Of The Amazon Queen“, “Open Arena” and “DreamWeb“. So, yes, there’s no shortage of proper free games out there.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂