noun in·spi·ra·tion \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spi-\

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone

In one of the many e-mail newsletters I get, usually crafted to sell something photographic, I received over Christmas one that set out 8 things one can do to find inspiration. It seems that inspiration is a matter of finding it lying on the ground or draped over a tree: it is just a matter of going here or there and experience the creative juices as they begin to flow. Well, I don’t think so! Inspiration is harder than that to come by!

You remember Euclid? Of course you do. Well, one day King Ptolemy asked him to explain a particularly difficult problem in a more easily understandable manner. Euclid answered


“Sire, there is no royal road to learning.’ In other words, sometimes understanding takes work.

That is true too of inspiration. It is not found by going to a particular place or doing a particular thing. It is not “found” at all. There are those who seem born with an artistic sense for whom ideas flow easily. But, alas, for the rest of us mortals it is a matter of study and work. And you begin by looking at what other inspired people have done. One has to study their art.

I have talked in these pages of the value of going to art galleries and shows and how important they are. So are websites and I often comment here in my blog on ones I have found. In my “Links I Like” section I have listed dozens of sites that have helped me see photography more clearly.

I spend time on line looking at photography. I have mentioned 500px and this is a great source of images. It is amazing how much photography, really good photography, you can find on the net. It can actually be a little discouraging because some of these people are really really good. But that should not be a discouragement. By posting their work they are offering to help you see how they see. If only we look!


So what do you do with all of this material as it flashes by your eyes? It is frustrating to see all this …. stuff and then pass it by. I know I feel that I want to embrace it somehow and remember it and refer to it. That’s why I have begun a notebook, a copy book, a place to keep some of this stuff so I can sit and look at it, comment on it, study it. It is amazing how much this has become a part of my routine. I copy stuff, paste it, write about it, and read my earlier pastings. And when I want to take a photo, I go to my book for ideas: for inspiration. And that inspiration is founded in effort.

This works. It is time consuming, often a lot of labour, but it is very rewarding. It is my book of inspirations.

You see, I don’t believe inspiration is to be “found”. Some are born with it. Others have to work at it. But it can be mastered; especially if you add patience and effort.

It is not cheating to see something someone has done and try to emulate it. That is called study. Eventually, if you do this long enough and with enough examples, your own preferences will begin to show through. You will learn how others did it, learn to discuss their work, and learn to create your own unique style in the process.

So get to work. Buy a good sturdy notebook – I got mine at an art supply store – and begin to paste pictures you like into it. Then make notes on each page of what you like in the image and what you don’t. Set yourself projects to recreate some of your saved pictures on a Sunday afternoon photo walk. Get to work in Photoshop and try to figure out techniques you see. And keep it up for a year. And you too will “find” inspiration!

 So there you are, another piece of my mind. I must be more careful because there’s not that much of it to go around!