Inspiration Fueling Creativity

Is inspiration killing and eating creativity? An interesting blog post from Owen Shifflett a month ago fueled a great debate. Chase Jarvis agreed. David duChemin defended inspiration. My thoughts on this coming right up, but first:

Things That Fuel My Creativity Lately

On the road totally immersed in photography, Mother Nature (well, and the internet) is the primary fuel. But for the past few months in Copenhagen my noteworthy fuel is: Friends. Friends from abroad visiting. Friends who are filmmakers. Twitter friends like C. Blog friends. Creating my new website and blog with WideRange galleries. Developing and creating all my new images. Guillaume Nery. New travel plans. Mark. Christian. Chase Jarvis. Vimeo. Learning to cut videos. Feedback on my blog posts like this one. David duChemin. Craft & Vision. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Focus For Humanity. VII’s work for MSF Starve for Attention. Reading. Writers. Music. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Finally, days of feeling blue, down and restless are actually great creative and productive fuel cells as then I really need outlets.

Creative Engine Runs on Rocket Fuel

Is there a point coming up in our near future you ask? Yes! As Mythbusters have proved, free energy is fiction. My creativity needs fuel. I agree with Dave duChemin that imitation, not inspiration, kills creativity. My creative engine must be fueled by a mixture of two things: My own energy and external inputs to ignite the energy! The external inputs do not inspire me to imitate, they inspire me to create. To get out there in the world again and create, pick up the camera, fire up the spaceship. It is extremely important for me every day to fuel my creative engine. I’ll be the first to advocate that vision is the utmost important thing and the one thing you must keep in mind when you start your creative process. But you have to get to the starting point first and call me lazy, I need the inputs for fuel. If not, I end up running on empty, drifting without a purpose in all and no directions simultaneously.

Children in Laos. (c) Flemming Bo Jensen Through the inputs I have fueled and found a great new project and purpose. I wish to try working as a photographer on humanitarian projects for NGOs. I am applying for the NGO Assignment Fellowship grant at Focus For Humanity. I probably won’t win having no previous experience in this field, but must shoot for the stars. I am also looking into very interesting volunteer opportunities at Like I said, no inputs and my engine sputters, need constant fuel for my engine so in summary:

Inspiration does not kill creativity. Inspiration fuels and ignites creativity.

16 Comments on “Inspiration Fueling Creativity”

  1. Hmmmmmm….

    I suppose if you pressed me into a corner demanding an answer, I'd say that inspiration is irrelevant. The Zen master might say that there is only doing and not doing, which does not include inspiration at all.

    For me there is a creative process. As an architect, I routinely distill chaos into order and there are processes for that that can be described and talked about. If I had to wait for inspiration to arrive, I wouldn't get anything done and would spin in circles. I did that a fair amount od spinning in circles when I first started architecture school.

    But… I do my very best artistic photographic work when my mind is completely blank and my sense of self has disappeared from my awareness. When my mind is cluttered with emotions and anxieties, then possibilies shrink to a pin-point. If I can get to "nothing", then powerful possibilities expand dramatically. So when I get to "nothing", then I get back "pure possibility" when the places reveal their secrets to the receptive (listening) mind that is not trying to impose anying on it. The lesson is perhaps being in a mind-frame to be able to see those quiet whispers of a place's secrets. Inspiration in the sense of being inspired by other artists or artwork has disappeared too in that mind set. But, paradoxially perhaps, the place when it finally reveals some of it's secrets is the inspiration to get to that state of mind. ;~]

    Hope that makes sense.

    1. Yodaisms, do or donut, big fan of that myself 🙂 Thanks for your input Zane, always great.

      I see what you mean about architecture and the processes. Some writer also once said "I can only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9am".
      Your take on artistic photography makes perfect sense to me, I feel the same. When I am actually at location and shooting I try to only focus on what I see, feel and hear, I do not have a tonnes of images flicking through my mind for inspiration to what I will shoot. I will only shoot exactly what I see and what triggers my eye. But to get to that point, I need some inputs that are then stored in my subconscience, they provide fuel.

      1. Further breakdown of my idealized process.

        1. Get to "Nothing" so that I can really see what is going on, what is unique, the essenses, threads of continuity, etc. I then go though an inquiry process for a while, asking the simple but hard to answer questions. If I don't get those right, my success rate drops dramatically. This requires some left & right brain participation and integration.

        2. Then we start to conceptualize what can be captured and then expressed. A goal of sorts and we start to visualize what the finished image will look like. Make some mental notes onthe quality of light, colors, color balance, what the mind's eye version is (never mere documentation).

        3. We develop an expressive strategy to apply to the act of capture. That strategy continues back at the computer to refine the expression even further to relize the original vision/goals.

        4. Analyze and evaluate if I achieved what I intended to so that I can learn as fast as possible. Part of that is the viewer's feedback.

        1. Love the breakdown of your process Zane, thanks. For me it is quite intuitive. I have described it as having a radar in my brain where I scan the scene and I wait for the radar to go off when there is something I can make visual sense of, something that triggers my radar.

          One thing I really enjoy is having closed the creative gap. I am now much closer to having the skills to create the image that I have in my head.

  2. Hi Flemming,

    I totally get the radar scanning part. But when it goes off,there still needs to be an analysis and evaluation to see if it is really the most powerful aspect or not.

    For instance, when faced with a great reflection, what is more important, the reflection or the "real" scene? Reflections are much more rare, so that has more expressive power so it should usually be emphasized over the "real" objects. What is unique about lighthouses? It's the light! When? At night in a storm! Then that inquiry and "inventory of what is unique, special, essenses, etc." gets tested and sorted out into the best expressive strategies. The challenge is in that we see in the right side of the brain that has no language; that goes a long way to explain why photography is so damned intuitive and hard to talk about. Language is in the left side. It's a development process much like learning to read to start to employ the left side as a powerful tool to test, evaluate and sort out what the right side sees. Most resist this process as intrusive, because it's work to develop that skill, but how can we really set up a process where we can learn and grow as artists as fast as possible? It's excruciatingly difficult to improve anything unless we have a way to start to have a language to describe it and to measure it. Trail and error is a long, slow and perilous path that can be quite frustrating. The upshot is that we really need to be able to talk about the process and what works and what doesn't down to useful and basic terms. Then its like the Japanese master who has honed and tested the skills to an unbelievable level, the process then completely disappears and becomes transparent and there is only the vision again. That is what mastery looks like.


  3. Jeebus Flemming, did I just get a mention up there with Christian, Mark and Chase Jarvis?! *falls over*

    I would purport that what inspires you, inspires you. Plain and simple. I think the reason people in the developed world are so fatigued from the influx of inspired-imitations, is that we all get to see them now. Previously, an aspiring artist's tentative prods into learning technique by imitation would have been restricted to them and their closest friends/family/mentors. We ALL get to see it these days because it's all online. But that's how we learn. From others. Most creative endeavours are inspired one way or the other, by something that's already there. It's how we learn. No seasoned pro got to where they were going without research and practice at the very least, before internalising the processes and techniques enough to produce something that has their own stamp on it.

    So in summary: I agree with you 😀

    And a virtual apology if I'm repeating someone else's words 😉

    1. Yes. You did just get a mention C, you read it right ! 🙂 Good comment, a friend of mine said something similar today how at some point you get so good your own vision and ideas take over completely but to get there you need heroes and inspiration.

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