Creativity, inspiration, and imagination are interwoven, but not interchangeable. They have different meanings, and understanding the differences can help you maximize the power of each when you may lack ability in any one of the three. This, in turn, can help you be a better National Welding & Fabrication or artist.
Creativity doesn’t equal inspiration, and it doesn’t equal imagination. I see the words used interchangeably in the art and fabrication world, and while there definitely is some overlap among the three and what they mean, I believe that the differences are interesting to think about. I’m not going to be Grandpa Simpson yelling at the clouds or Clint Eastwood snarling “get off my lawn” when I hear the words misplaced, and perhaps it’s a bit of semantics, but I think by separating the three you can concentrate on them individually and either hone or dismiss one as seems fit.
Inspiration is the most ephemeral of the three, and is almost by definition a supernatural occurrence: “A divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation” is the first entry in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It goes on to say that inspiration is “the power of moving the intellect or emotions.” You can find inspiration in nature, or in the way someone else lives their life.
Being imaginative is a mysterious thing that, personally, I can take the least amount of credit for. Perhaps my mind’s eye was exercised and strengthened by my parents, but I think that this is one of those deals where you either have it or you don’t. When I’m asked, “Where did you come up with this idea?” the usual response is a kind of nervous laugh and “beats me!” Stuff just pops into my head. When I see someone who clearly copied an idea lauded for their imagination, I think the praise is misplaced. Maybe they showed good technique or skill, but there’s no imagination.
Creativity is skill. It’s problem solving. You can actively increase your creativity by building things whether you feel “inspired” or not. It’s an exercise I’ve done, to build a sculpture without that mystical inspiration. When there is an end goal in sight, whether that goal is an imagined sculpture in your brain or a widget from a blueprint, creativity can be employed to accomplish the goal. One of the things I love about prototype work is that so much of it is one-off pieces or proving out prints where there is no established way to do it. You can come up with your own solution. That’s creativity.
I think you can improve your chances of being inspired by becoming aware of the art that surrounds you every day. There’s a reason that reading a classic book or listening to an old record speaks to your soul and makes you want to excel at whatever you do. Inspiration begets inspiration. Inspiration sparks imagination, if that enigmatic imagination is “in” you to start.
I’m never going to paint like van Gogh, but strolling through the Amsterdam museum dedicated to him made me want to become a better welder and sculptor. Inspiration also can animate the passion that drives truly creative people.
When all three facets are intertwined and working at a high level, that’s when you become Otis Redding or Fyodor Dostoevsky, creating inspired works from the depths of the human brain. I think by mentally separating the three, you can move forward when you struggle in, or can’t seem to find, one aspect. At least it does for me.