Seeking inspiration in all the wrong places

“To be original, seek your inspiration from unexpected sources.” – Paul Arden in his amazing book It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be.

If you were a beginning painter, where would you look for inspiration?

If you’re anything like many painters who are just starting out, you would look to historically famous paintings, or contemporary works that are getting a lot of attention. You’d talk to successful painters and follow blogs about painting trends.

This type of inspiration seeking is bad for creativity.

We tend to search for inspiration in this way because it’s beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint. When we’re young we look to others to see how we should behave; what to eat and what not to eat, where to walk and where to avoid. We are led to believe that the best way to learn something is to mimic something else.

What happens as a result of this mode of thinking is artists all look to art for inspiration, musicians to other musicians, business minded creatives look to see what other businesses are doing.

It makes you wonder: where does original thought come into play?

The point is that original paintings, music, business ideas, all stem from outside their respective fields.The absolute best ideas – the thoughts that revolutionize the cellphone industry or shatter attendance records for theatrical plays – come from other areas of life.

It’s only when we look at a game of baseball as a source of inspiration for a painting that we begin to explore truly creative ideas. When we see a lightbulb as a source of inspiration for architectural design, when a flock of birds in the sky invokes an idea for a new way to commute, or when we think of writing every time we hear a hammer, that’s when we find the best, most original ideas.

Do what very few people with your talents does when seeking inspiration: go to where you least expect to find it.

Original photo via Flickr.