How to spot great creative inspiration

When seeking out creative inspiration, how is it that we feel almost constantly unsatiated when there’s so much to fuel our creativity around us?

Particularly with the advent of the web, inspiration seems to be only a click or two away at any given moment. And yet, our desire for more to motivate, to help conceptualize, to provide clearer direction, goes unhinged.

There’s a quote from German author and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his book Theory of Colours that speculates on inspiration. The conclusion is drawn that true inspiration – the type that you encounter and seemingly forces you to move – is the result of finding a work that is both timeless and ephemeral.

The best inspiration, Goethe indicates, is that which we see to both stand on its own while also, simultaneously, forcing us to it’s opposite.

“A grey object on a black ground appears much brighter than the same object on a white ground. If both comparisons are seen together the spectator can hardly persuade himself that the two greys are identical. We believe this again to be a proof of the great excitability of the retina, and of the silent resistance which every vital principle is forced to exhibit when any definite or immutable state is presented to it. Thus inspiration already presupposes expiration; thus every systole its diastole. It is the universal formula of life which manifests itself in this as in all other cases. When darkness is presented to the eye it demands brightness, and vice versa: it shows its vital energy, its fitness to receive the impression of the object, precisely by spontaneously tending to an opposite state.”

The most powerful creative inspiration is that which feels to have a powerful opposite.

Yes, inspiration can be found anywhere, particularly in the details, but the good stuff – at least according to Goethe – is the stuff that resonates as having a polarized opposite.

It’s the elegant lines, calming demeanor, and subdued colors of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa contrasting the bold, chaotic and seemingly rebel-like strokes of Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950. Or the smooth stokes of Wolfgang’s Concerto No. 2 In D Major versus the powerful riffs in the Black Key’s Little Black Submarines.

There is no middle ground for the greatest inspiration, that’s how we recognize it subconsciously (whether visually with our eyes or otherwise).

What do you think?

Photo by Flickr user.