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Running on Feelings: Thoughts About Art, Life, and Inspiration

The following article was orginally posted on 30dayartist.com, a site which challenges artists to create 40 works of art in 30 days, all while blogging about it. I took the challenge, and these are my thoughts about the experience as a whole.

During my 30dayartist challenge I’ve gotten a few comments and emails that have said things like, “You’ve inspired me to get back into my studio,” or ”I’m inspired to take those watercolor classes I’ve always wanted to take.”

These emails are wonderful, and I’m very glad to have been able to be a catalyst through which someone has been inspired to pursue art.

However. . . I keep thinking, is inspiration really what we need?

There’s no denying the fact that inspiration helps, and it does create an environment that makes us eager to get work done. But is being inspired really a requirement in order to create art?

So many times over the years I haven’t gone into the studio because I didn’t feel that inspiration—I would tell myself that you "can’t make good art if you’re not feeling inspired," or "you can’t force creativity."

But this month I’ve been forced to reconsider my entire thought process about inspiration and creativity. I have 18 successful paintings staring me in the face that at some point I didn’t feel like working on. And each one of those paintings is a direct contradition to what I have believed and (more importantly) acted on for years.

I promise you that of all the paintings I’ve completed so far during this challenge, there have been about TWO that I couldn’t wait to get started on. Several were painted out of duty only, with no pleasure found until I neared the end and was able to see the painting coming together.

Sometimes I dragged myself into the studio, uninspired, only to find inspiration as I set up my still life and saw the potential of a beautiful painting. Other times the inspiration came from the success of the previous painting—this usually gave me a nudge to start a new painting right on the heels of another.

A fellow artist emailed me this week expressing the difficulty she sometimes has getting herself into the studio, and she couldn’t pinpoint why it happened. I have felt the same thing. . . and now that my 30dayartist challenge has been upon me for 20 days, I have to say that those feelings of avoiding my studio have gotten stronger. Perhaps for me it’s out of fatigue.

But because of all the paintings I’ve completed which I didn’t feel like working on, I’ve begun to believe that feelings of creativity and inspiration are not necessary to create good art. And to take that one step further, could it be that forcing myself to paint (whether I’m inspired or not) is the very thing that will bring on a feeling of inspiration?

If this is truly the case, then every day I should muster up my will and choose to do what I don’t feel like doing, with the knowledge that in time my feelings will follow.

This is a principle that I use in my daily life as I rely on truth and use my mind to lead my emotions. For example, if I don’t feel like being gracious and kind to an individual, how damaging would it be to act on those emotions!

So I do the right thing, by using my will, my mind, and for me, the strength that God gives—and I’m no longer very surprised when the desire to be kind and to care for this person comes to me as I am speaking with them. (Now, I’ll admit I don’t always follow this as closely as I should, but I am learning and growing in this.)

If I may share even more personally, when I am down or think that God has left me or that He has no plan for my life, I choose to focus on His Word where He says He will never leave me or forsake me. . . where He says that He knew all of my days and every detail of my entire life was written out by Him before I lived even one day!

In spite of any emotional state where I might feel alone or that my life is a mess, I choose to think on those promises and believe them – and by focusing my mind on that truth, my emotions soon follow.

So how does this all apply? Well let’s bring it back to art.

From now on, I can’t choose not to go into the studio when I "don’t feel inspired" because I know that’s a completely invalid excuse. I’ve learned for a fact that once I get in there and get going, inspiration will come. . . and I may have another painting to go on the wall soon enough.

For those of you who feel inspired right now, well get going before that feeling subsides! Always use the feeling if it’s helping you get where you want to be.

But if your inspiration has subsided, or you just can’t get yourself into the studio in front of that blank canvas, then stop riding life on your feelings and START choosing to do what you know you should be doing.

Fight through the muck of your emotions and just tell yourself what you are going to do instead of being led around by how you feel.

Every single day you are determining the person you will be a year from now.

So who are you, and what are you doing today?

To read all of Rebecca Finch’s blog posts from the beginning of her 30dayartist challenge, start here and use the navigational links at the top of the page. You can also see all of her artwork at www.RebeccaFinch.com.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

Most often when I tell someone I am an artist, I hear something like, “How wonderful! I wish I could draw, but…” and then they follow it with a statement like how they would LOVE to be able to draw but can’t even draw a stick figure, or that someone else in the family is the artist, or that their 5th grade art teacher really embarrassed them and they’ll never try it again,. . . read more

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