Where do your ideas come from?

I genuinely love working as an artist, and I appreciate that I get to do this for a living. But, just as with any other job, there are some days when I just don’t feel motivated – I’m tired, or there’s a lack of time, or a budgetary constraint. Luckily though, I can’t ever recall a time when I’ve suffered from a lack of ideas.

Thinking creatively is not solely the domain of artists. Humans the world over do it every day – we solve problems, make substitutions, re-route ourselves – but recognizing these abilities as being ‘creative’ is easier for some than others. Not to say creative thought is equal to artistic talent – not everyone has an innate natural ability, but for anyone who’s determined and dedicated, talent can be practiced, improved, and honed over time. There are opportunities all around us to live more creative lives.

If you’re open to inspiration, I think it’s easy to find wherever you are. There are provocations, stimulations, and invitations, everywhere. When I’m asked where I get my ideas, the truth is they come from every facet of my life. From conversations, newspaper articles, real-life, imagination, a shot in a movie, a sentence in a book, old photos, a piece of fruit – any of these can become a jumping off point for something else. I keep running lists, and take lots of pictures to refer back to later. One of my past film projects was based on an idea that came to me while watching the National Ballet of Canada perform. Another project coalesced into being after combining a comment about a second-hand shop, together with a friend’s Facebook post about a bookstore experience. Deciding how to weave these random threads into a finished piece is where the real work lies.

Most people have heard of ‘writer’s block’ – but equally challenging is the opposite of that – too many thoughts running around in your head. When brainstorm becomes brain tornado. When you have a surplus of ideas, harnessing them can be difficult. Looking at your own work with a critical eye and choosing what to leave out – how to edit yourself – is a key part of the creative process. Some ideas truly deserve to be left on the ‘cutting room floor’, as we say in film.

If you’re looking to jumpstart your creativity, try something new. Take up a hobby. Socialize with different people. Travel somewhere you’ve never been. Experiment. Collaborate. Debate topics of interest. Visit galleries. Read books. Watch movies. Ask questions. Seek out new experiences. A particularly wonderful (and awful) thing I try to do is challenge myself to overcome uncomfortable situations. I’ve accepted invitations to parties where I barely knew anyone. I’ve eaten at restaurants where the menu was in a different language. I’ve befriended interesting strangers. I’ve travelled by myself. At times these things have been awkward or scary, but ultimately, so rewarding. Afterward, I’m always glad I pushed the boundaries of my regular comfort zone and took a risk. These situations often make for good stories, and discomfort can be a great catalyst for creativity.