The Artist’s Quandary of “Inspiration”

I used to think I had to be “inspired” before I could be creative.

I let that belief paralyze me and talk me out of years worth of art I could have created. If I didn’t feel like I had it to give, I wouldn’t try. There was always some reason I couldn’t draw: marriage, fatherhood, ministry, recreation.  

I’ve been a graphite artist that specializes in pet portraits and wildlife since I was a teenager. I did several national shows with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and even advertised nationally. I was successful with my art as a teenager.  When I became an adult, I started into music ministry, got married and started a family. My drawing took a back seat and I all but let up on the idea that it could be a part of my life. My biggest excuses were, “I don’t have time”, and “I don’t feel inspired right now.” 
However, I grieved over the years that I had this gift from God, but I didn’t use it to any great capacity.  I bought into the lie that unless I was inspired, the art couldn’t come. I couldn’t be creative unless the ‘mood’ hit.
Over the course of our marriage, my wife, Jaime, and I acquired some consumer debt that began to choke us. Between selling some of our unnecessary items, and getting on a disciplined budget, we started cleaning up the mess. But I realized that for our debt snowball process to progress faster, I needed some more income. I started advertising commissions as a way to bring in some extra finances. It was slow at first, but I started once again drawing pets, wildlife, and making prints as a side hustle to bless our family and the goals we had set.
I discovered something interesting. I found out I really did have more time than I thought. I started drawing later into the evening when my family went to bed, or during a movie night when we were all gathered together anyway. My productivity started to increase and my capacity to take on new projects grew.  I realized my creativity wasn’t holding back my other responsibilities. (And the extra income that helped us get out of debt quicker was a huge bonus!)
I also discovered something foundational to my art, and honestly to my life.  I learned that inspiration doesn’t create creativity.  It’s actually the other way around. Creativity creates inspiration. Or in other words, you begin, then you get inspired.  I find the more I draw, sell, and succeed, the more inspired I become.  I certainly have days I don’t feel like drawing, but I stay motivated because I am confident in my ‘why’, and I enjoy the wins of creating something new and satisfying to others.  
Now with multiple commissions regularly in line, my art as a side business alongside fatherhood, being a husband, and in full time ministry, I am more inspired to create art than I have ever been. I am more fulfilled as a creative, and I feel I’m using one of my gifts for God’s glory that I was convinced I couldn’t succeed in.  I discovered that to become inspired, you have to start.  Don’t wait for the inspiration to hit or you will never start!
I encourage you to follow your dreams by doing something about it.  Put work clothes on your dreams by setting some goals and get busy! Even if you start small, break the paralysis by taking a step.  You’ll find inspiration follows your effort!
-Jim
How have you dealt with the idea of “inspiration”? What other lies hold artists back from creating?  Comment below to join the conversation! 

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  • Jim on

    Thank you, Colton! Art is a great way to let our minds settle. It’s so easy for our thoughts to get out of control and I find that quieting my mind while I’m drawing actually launches fresh ideas because I’m not stuffing my brain full of social media, the worries of the day, or the evening news. Sometimes it’s a great time to pray!

  • Colton on

    “Creativity creates inspiration.” I love that! Keep up the great work! I truly love following your posts and Art.

    Art has been a form therapy in my life over the last few years and you always find ways to encourage and inspire!

    Thank you!!


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