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Which Came First: Inspiration or Creativity?

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

“I’m inspired!” Have you ever spoken those words? I think we all have at some point in our lives. “That’s creative!” Have you ever spoken those words? Again, I think we all have at some point. The bigger question is can you be creative before being inspired? Or, can you be inspired before being creative? I’m inspired to creatively explain!

Following last week’s post from Dr. Karl Kapp on waiting for inspiration to write a book, and when it strikes, he got creative. This suggests inspiration came first in his experience. Another example he shared in that post was witnessing participants in a workshop discussing game ideas in his workshops. About 20 minutes into a discussion they get stuck. I would argue the initial conversations were very creative, but they lost steam because there was no anchor; nothing to glean from.

Let’s look deeper. Have you ever found a pillow, an artifact, or a paint color that was the “inspiration piece” for interior decorating? That single thing sparked the following creativity to pull other pieces together – fabrics, textures, artwork, furniture, other colors, etc. It’s when we’re inspired that creativity is sparked. So, inspiration comes before creativity, right?

Wait, what about play? Play has no rules. It’s just fun. Think of playing with a pile of LEGO with no purpose other than putting random LEGO brick together. At some point your structure will resemble something you recognize whether it be a representation of a physical object, a scene, or a metaphorical concept. At some point during that creative playtime inspiration surfaced which then causes us to focus on a specific outcome. So, creativity comes before inspiration, right?

In the end it really doesn’t matter which comes first, does it? What matters is recognizing it when either inspiration or creativity is present. Going back to Karl’s book writing, he was stuck waiting for inspiration. To solve that he just started writing not waiting for inspiration. Because of that choice, the words started to make sense and the creative juices started flowing. As more and more words were written, I’m guessing inspiration for following chapters emerged. Karl recognized inspiration was hiding, so he forced it out by writing without waiting for it.

For me, I get inspired daily with articles I want to write, projects I want to make, ideas I want to draw, and more. Recently, I was playing with an old set of Tinker Toys. As I was just playing it occurred to me if I could enlarge the pieces and make a life-size set of Tinker Toy shelf brackets. I started with simple therapeutic practice of playing. During the creative practice of playing, I became inspired. Now, that inspiration leads back to creativity on how I’m going to make Tinker Toy pieces about 3x their original size.

Inspiration and creativity are synonymous. I don’t think you can have one without the other but when one surfaces, the other is not far behind. The next time you feel creative, just start doing something and inspiration will show itself. The next time you feel inspiration, think of all the creative things you can do from that source.

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