Is Inspiration Killing Creativity?


“The reality is that it’s easier to be inspired than it is to create an original idea and we are hardwired to take the path of least resistance. It’s easier to jump onto a design inspiration gallery site than it is to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. It’s easier to follow a pattern than it is to test-drive new options. It’s easier to copy a style or idea that works than try something that might miss the mark or outright fail. Above all, it’s cheaper mentally for us to rally around what’s already been done and emulate it…”

The above excerpt is from a brilliant post by Owen over at Well worth the read. Do it.

Personally, I couldn’t agree more. How much time is the right amount to stroll thru galleries, troll creative sites, and watch online videos?

And what about you?
Are you too busy getting inspired by the work of others to create your own?
Do you read about the failures of others, so you don’t have to try?
Is the convenience of information actually reducing your willingness to struggle to make something worthwhile?

[stumbled on this via my pal @pixelatedimage]

87 Responses to Is Inspiration Killing Creativity?

  1. Chase August 16, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Whats the phrase – Theres nothing new only a different take on what already exists?

    I love the creative life, I could care less about failing or succeeding, the joy is in the journey for me.

    • Matthew August 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

      Recently I entered a photo-contest for still life and I went onto another site to get inspiration. I saw a photograph that I really liked. So what did I do, I tried to copy it. Not because of a lack of creativity on my own, I wanted to expand my knowledge. For me, it was a great way to stretch and add to what I knew about photography. I am now able to include this added knowledge to future shoots.

      Yet, that was about the second time I have done that. I may see a photograph that will inspire me yet it inspires something that was already there. I see a photograph and if it does inspire me, I will instantly get an image in my head and usually its completely different than the photograph I viewed. Its usually the way the light was used in said photograph that makes me want to apply it to something else completely different.

      I say other’s work can inspire other people to create something completely new and perhaps revolutionary, it doesnt have to be a copy, it can be natural growth.

      • mark August 18, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

        I tend to agree, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of creativity.

  2. David Dvir August 16, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Inspiration is a tricky thing. While it can be a short cut in some ways, it can also accelerate your learning curve. I know that through inspiration I’ve tried shoots that I never would have thought of on my own. Those are not my trademark images however what I took away from those shoots opened up new possibilities for me in terms of what I may be capable of. This is what I mean by acceleration and without that initial push from inspired art, I may not have had the resources to pursue my creative endeavours.

    I believe that inspiration can kill creativity, but I also believe when tapped correctly it can make creativity that much better. Closing that “creative gap” is hard enough when you’re starting out, so any lessons learned are massive advantages.

    I like this topic a lot, thanks for the post!


  3. Andy August 16, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    I often find myself getting stuck in inspiration-finding holes, and spend a lot of time picking out inspiration for each shoot. Think it’s easy to get caught in that and feel like you are doing something productive, but shooting is much more valuable.

    Lately have been finding that when I get in the field, I tend to forget about the inspiration shots and find what is happening there and in that moment, so I’ve been trying to cut back on my inspiration-gathering time.

  4. Royce Walston August 16, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    The only way to grow creatively, is to risk failure, through trying something that is outside your norm.

    • Kylie Macey August 16, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

      I totally agree with Royce…you can’t grow creatively without failure in one form or another. You learn from the experience and move on.

  5. maris August 16, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    It’s a mixed bag, I think. Inspiration motivates me, and it’s often a starting point. I do agree though, that if you spend too much time and energy being “inspired” by others, then you miss out on some truly original possibilities. Having said that, sometimes what inspires me with someone else’s work is that I walk away from it knowing how I might take a idea further, or do it differently.

    I like this topic, too. The reality for me is that I have to offer creativity, but it still has to fit within my client’s idea of what is beautiful and acceptable, and so sometimes if I take that too far, it doesn’t fit in with their vision. I’m okay with that – I often go back the 2nd and even 3rd time and adjust my idea to something that we’re all happy with.

  6. Ray August 16, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    I do tend to look through other’s work to draw inspiration before a shoot. And not to sound like I’m making excuses, but I’m relatively new to the game. Wouldn’t you say it could be similar to those who have been in the game for 10, 20 or even 30 years and have oodles of shots and ideas already in their head to draw inspiration from?

  7. Toby August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I’m a big fan of this – and equally as guilty…

    For God’s sake go out and SHOOT!!

    This ties in with education too – don’t get me wrong, it’s important and we will (hopefully) never stop learning, but there comes a point where you have to stop with the classes, and PRACTICE!!

    As a sax player/teacher first, this rings true with me – anyone else?


  8. Dwayne D.C. Tucker August 16, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    I just say keeping on hustling; that’s what I’m doing!!

    Miami, Florida | Nassau, Bahamas

  9. Andy August 16, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    Speaking from the very beginnings of the journey… I would argue that originality will only be sacrificed to inspiration by those artists who do not want their vision to go beyond what has inspired. And I imagine that can happen to any of us when we stop asking the why’s, what’s and how’s. Why do I like that… what is it I like about that… how can I bring that into my work.

    We all have our “muse”… that thing that drives us to want to create. We are all “inspired” in some way. I know that my work looks like a million other photographers but I am happy to recreate right now as I search for my own “style” and learn. I think David is very right, learning by recreation is an amazing part of the process. To be able to recreate is to understand.

    And if we are serve customers what we may think as old and trite may be bold and creative to them… and may be that thing that brings them great joy.

    “News is old things happening to new people.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

  10. Qathi August 16, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    I might be especially brave, or crazy. I’ve learned to trust the wacky ideas that pop into my head – I used to put them away thinking they were too weird. No. No they’re not. I don’t look to see if or what someone else might doing in the neighborhood of the idea, I know I’ll do it differently, especially if I don’t look. I actively choose to not second guess myself by checking in on what the cool kids are doing. Moreover I don’t really care if I’m one of the cool kids, or not. So, no, I’m not relying on the convenience of information. It’s an intentional choice. If I’m not feeling particularly “inspired” or “creative” I know to give it some time, it’ll all return soon enough, especially if trust every wacky idea and don’t second guess the weird thoughts ;-)

  11. Michael Dyrland August 16, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    The world has been photographed many times over. I live to create. The thought of exploring and toying with new ideas drives me. Some people get stuck in life and have to get inspired by other people. Chase Jarvis inspired me a while back with the work he has created and the work ethic he has. I live in the Pacific Northwest. It’s my inspiration and the beauty, my home, is my muse. I’m putting in my two weeks at my job today, I have decided to make this move to advance my career, personal goals, and creative aspirations… I’m a photographer and I love to create!

  12. Ilan (@ilanbr) August 16, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    My only ‘inspiration’, I think, are few books of “The Masters” I’ve.
    I tried to recreate their images and learned a lot in the process.
    Sure, I got few ideas from different galleries, exhibitions, fellow bloggers, but that is almost like passing by a street ad. If it’s good, it will catch my and I might learn something from it. Or chuckle.
    But to say that it waste my time? Not sure.

  13. kkjensen August 16, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Well…that was the MOST uninspiring post of yours I’ve EVER READ!


    Guilty as charged….

    [right hand hand in the air] I promise to get off my duff and shoot more, live more and create more than I ever have. [/right hand in the air]

  14. Sam Perry August 16, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    I think this supports the idea of ‘get out there and just shoot’ that much more. The more often you are shooting the more times you are perfecting your craft. Which means you are trying and learning. Developing your own skills and style. You just don’t know unless you try. Stop drooling over everyone elses work and create your own. I’m not saying stop being inspired. Certainly draw ideas from what you see and experience but when you get out there so much more comes out of your work than you could eve imagine sitting online pouri g over other’ galleries. Thanks Chase!

  15. Scott Brown August 16, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Great post! Remind me that I need to get up off my a$$ and get creating! Thanks!

  16. Senda August 16, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    I can understand where that excerpt may ring truth, but for some, they seek inspiration from others to see what else they don’t already notice and to seek a new perspective on such things. If the artist seeks inspiration only to closely mock the other artist then it does ruin the creativity process. Some have searched for inspiration in order to learn from others failures and sucesses and see what others take notice to that they do not. It sparks the imagination and allows room to grow as a photographer.

  17. Mike Young August 16, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    I have found myself vacillating back and forth on what creativity means to me as a photographer…The antisepticated definition of creativity from

    “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.”

    Creativity…Is it inspired from others?…Is it something new?…And when do you cross the line from studying other styles to creating your own style? How the heck do you attain it? Are you born with it? Is it like singing? Can you learn it, or do you have to already have the talent in order to build it? Some seem to have it already pre-built, while others have to nurture it, and others just flat don’t have it. Eeek..and the more I try to build my own style the more I feel I fall into the latter….

    I find a possible three step progression of the creative newb to the master….Study, Creating Your Own Style, and Invention, the last of which is the BFG of creativity, in my mind. This is the level one frickin’ CREATES creativity the likes of which all other levels are a mimic of in one manner or another.

  18. Jürgen August 16, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Very valid points. Finding your own creativity, finding the source of from where you draw your own ideas has different roots. There are the artists and people who inspired us and still inspire. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with it. If it becomes a point of standing still and makes us lazy to create it becomes a huge problem and art becomes production.
    It is our imagination, the images within us that are not real yet that move us forward to new heights.

    This process is difficult and using inspiration as a catalyst to create something new is the real art.

  19. David duChemin August 16, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    I think it’s helpful in discussions like this to take a look at what we mean by the big words we use. “Inspiration” gets used in all kinds of ways, so we all have a different sense of whether it does or doesn’t kill creativity. I’ve been thinking a lot about Owen’s original post since I first read it, and I think a simply return to the original meaning of the word might help some of us. Inspiration simply means to “breathe in” – it’s the opposite, or the precursor to expiring, which literally means to “breathe out.” It is not the bolt from the blue, but the amassing of inputs – the things we read, the things we look at, the music, the books, the movies, the conversations, all the things we ingest that then incubate and eventually come out when we put the camera in hand or put our butt in the chair to write. True inspiration comes from working and it’s not a substitute, nor a threat, to creativity, but a precursor to it.

    • Mike Young August 19, 2010 at 5:48 am #

      Well said!, Mr. duChemin.

  20. Brian Carey August 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Sat around reading to many blogs takes away from the time to be creative! See ya I’m out of here! :-))

  21. Matt August 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    The problem with creativity is time. A luxury everybody can´t afford more and more less. After doing 12-14 hours and more on commercial work to get the business run, your head is just like a black hole. Sometimes, when you´re lucky, you get inspired by something and a little flame of ambition and creativity brings you back to the origins of photography and your aspiration to become a real good one. Willing to become better an more creative. Sometimes the little light blazes bigger. Sometimes it´s getting dark. Just a question of time.

  22. enotsm August 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    …”influenced by” and “inspired by” are not the same thing. Sometimes it’s just easier to check out what others are doing and leap from there. But Honestly thats why I think digital-photography IS fast-food-like. So many times I see photogs with new DSLR’s and they seem to be in for the right reasons. But 1 minute into a conversation and you find out they are usually just GWC’s with no real ideas, opinions nor direction. I still shoot film (won’t give up my Hasselblad 500CM for anything!) Even though I started with digital I soon realized that real photographers should understand film. Setting my nikon on blast and parsing through photos in LightRoom is creatively stale. How can anyone learn from mistakes if photoshop fixes everything? (like Auto-tune for singers). I’m not saying digital is evil and that all digital-only photogs are weak. It’s just the digital workflow is the breeding-ground for laziness and being able to re-create a look or mood in photoshop doesn’t make anyone any more of a photographer then Garageband makes anyone more of a musician IMHO…

  23. Leoraul Torres August 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    I did read that blog post last week. I can’t agree with everything said. There are scenarios where you have to build from previous work. If not, I cant imagine in which world we would be living.

  24. Nathan August 16, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Creativity is related to originality and to me is different than inspiration. One is not unoriginal if inspired by (not copy) someone else’s work and able to creatively adapt it on their own and for themselves. From my perspective, this statement is preposterous. It implies that you aren’t creative if you ‘walk’ into a gallery site and see something that appeals to you and that there’s something you then try to gleam from it. How is it any different than going to an art museum and looking at a Picasso or Monet and going home and painting in a particular style? Just because it’s virtual, doesn’t make it bad. The hard part is realizing that there is less and less a chance that traces of what one is doing has not been done before. The key is doing it better and for yourself. Be creative, be inspired to be original by yourself AND OTHERS!

  25. Tobias Key August 16, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    Consider that Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest creative genius in the English language, never wrote a play that wasn’t based on a previous source.

    ‘There is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers’ (Robert Greene 1592)

    If being inspired by something is good enough for Shakespeare then it is good enough for me. There is no such thing as a original idea, we all carry creative baggage that we copy or are influenced by, even subconsciously, if you sit at home waiting for a truly ‘original’ idea you’d never take a picture.

    • Michael P August 18, 2010 at 10:31 am #

      @Tobias Key I agree with you, sir. Sheer imitation isn’t even such a bad thing, initially. It makes sense to hone one’s technique and to expand upon the knowledge/inspiration gained from others to develop one’s own style. So many illustrators developed their ability by attempting to replicate the work of artists they were drawn to as children. I think adults can benefit from the same approach. The idea isn’t to get stuck riffing any one artist but rather to build a foundation of capability whereby one can pursue their own unique expression (i.e., “unique” inasmuch as anything can be unique anymore. Maybe the correct word is heterogeneous.).

  26. David Getsfrid August 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    Even when I set pen to paper to eek out a sketch of a photographic idea, I’m drawing on everything I’ve ever seen before. To not expand the scope of what I *have* seen before would be akin to telling someone to create a mathematic proof having never taught them subtraction.

  27. Sam August 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    These philosophical posts are amazing.

  28. Serge Kakorin August 16, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    After the fair amount of wandering through the galleries and sites, reading and watching videos of and about various creative people, great and bad, there is hunger. Hunger of doing. It’s like your soul is anxious to create, to produce, to give birth to something on her own, without consuming second hand food anymore. If this hunger is not satisfied, she starves and dies slowly, losing her fertile potential. And after a certain point, it is too late, and you become a copycat, and it is unbelievably difficult to return to this hungry state of your soul, in which she can create, produce and give birth to great art again.

  29. a girl and a camera photography August 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    It’s so true… Glad to read about this subject. It’s something I have been thinking a lot about. Thanks for passing it along.

  30. Anonymous August 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm #


  31. Greg August 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    I totally like what Jason Fried (purposefully small successful software company owner) author of: Rework book says about “avoiding information overload” regarding productivity.

  32. Tim Skipper August 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    This reminds me of a quote from author and speaker Jim Rohn, “Let the end of life find you climbing up a new mountain, not sliding down an old one.”

    Its so true that it is easier to copy than create, to look for inspiration, rather than build inspiration. I think the more creatives work at making a living creating the greater the danger of loosing why we are creative.

    Its so easy to get into ruts because there is so much to do networking, making appointments, completing job assignments, making sure everyone under you has done their job. At the end of the day you can be just too tired to create, so you copy. Make a few changes and call it creativity.

    I agree with the author, I think the best thing we can do for ourselves is to grab the blank paper and pencil and see what comes.

  33. adam August 16, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I’ve worked out of a series of no’s. No to exquisite light, no to apparent compositions, no to the seduction of poses or narrative. And all these no’s force me to the “yes.” I have a white background. I have the person I’m interested in and the thing that happens between us. – Richard Avedon – 1994
    Thanks for posting Chase, I had a nice “think” on this, I ended up being inspired by RA, tomorrow I shall “do”.

  34. Chris August 17, 2010 at 4:46 am #

    I’ve never really seen inspiration as a “bad” thing until reading this article. Initially, I suppose I relied on it when creativity waned. Eventually it became my go-to means for producing something I like simply because it was easy, fast, and safe. No wonder I lost interest… all my victories were really nothing more than recreating someone else’s victories.

    If there’s a place for inspiration, I think it’s best left at being inspired to be original. Thanks for sharing the article.

  35. callie lipkin August 17, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    Great post Chase! I don’t think you can control how your creativity manifests itself. I look at pictures all the time, but am not usually ‘inspired’ by them. Usually films, music, painting and just observing life bring me my best inspirations. I think its hard to get inspired to make a photograph by something that is already a photograph.

  36. Donnie Bell Design August 17, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    We do this a lot. It’s easy to sit in our chairs and look at other people’s work for inspiration than to take the effort to make our brains work towards getting an original idea together. But we usually take that inspiration and it makes us work harder or we take the idea and morph it into something new. And whatever we do, we never say “it’s good enough.” We work on it until we are happy with it (or until the deadline and the client starts asking for it).

  37. Steven Holmes August 17, 2010 at 7:50 am #

    Emulation is certainly a form of suicide in my view. Having said that, I don’t think we can completely eradicate external influences whether we like it or not. For me, it really is becoming more challenging to be original but it is always possible to be authentic. Authenticity is also a big deal.

    I do agree that its too easy to sit back and troll websites and magazines searching for “inspiration” instead of letting the problem or environment you’re working in inform the inspiration. I try, though I don’t always succeed, in using the ‘falling forward’ concept used at Industrial Design firm IDEO’s offices. They analyze a problem, come up with a few ideas worth prototyping, then test the designs and rework as necessary. Its pretty amazing what comes out of this process and how quickly and broadly creative energy expands.

    Great post from Chase. Thanks!

  38. stephanie August 17, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    why create. when people like what they see now. if you are in business you have to do what the client wants. so what the client wants is what is popular. i struggle daily with this idea.

  39. Jason Collin Photography August 17, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Thanks for posing these questions Chase . . .

    I would say I look at the work of others for inspiration for creativity only when I feel I am myself getting repetitive in my work. For example, this summer I photographed a number of beach weddings that all had 1 hour for the ceremony and photography. I found myself quickly establishing a routine of the same poses, the same types of shot with the bride & groom.

    To add some new creativity I talked to a colleague or two and looked through a book of poses. I added a “dip” shot and a few more closeup shots of the couple.

    Then on my own I grew unsatisfied with what I could do with one strobe (SB-800) on a light stand so I added a SB-600 to the strobist setup. Now I have a new area to learn how to be creative in, a 2-strobe lighting environment.

  40. Paul August 17, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    For some, inspiration simply means replicating the work of another. For others, inspiration is a starting point… a place from which to leap head first into their creative journey.

    It seems to me that most creative works build upon the accomplishments of others… the music of the Rolling Stones was built on a foundation of Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, and Chuck Berry, for example.

    Therefore, in my opinion, inspiration in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. What matters is what one does with that inspiration.

  41. Steve August 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    You can present your creativity on your coffee cup. Check out the “Chase Jarvis” cup. Help us hit 1,000,000

  42. Morgana August 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    There is a lot of stuff out there that is very samey, but there are also a lot of original individual artists very much lead by their creativity. :)

    Whilst a lot of work is definitely inspiring, for me it prompts the “what ifs” creativitiy rather than desire to do more of the same.

  43. David Patrick August 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    Pow! You got me with this one.

  44. jeremy mayhew August 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    think of apple and Microsoft, two of the biggest companies in the world….apple was “influenced” by IBM trash and Microsoft was influenced by apple. Neither of them started off with a totally unique original idea, they took inspiration from what someone else did and used their own creativity and personality to make something unique from something that already existed.

    The mp3 player and cell phone were not original ideas 5 years ago…but apple and blackberry took the inspiration from them and using their own uniqueness, they made them huge.

    Being “inspired” and “being completely original” are not mutually exclusive, especially in art. What matters is using your own personality and creativity to take something and make it your own. even the television is simply something that was inspired by something that already existed…the “play”.

  45. Kevin Steele August 17, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    As Paul MacCready, designer of the Gossamer Albatross and other unique aircraft said: “daydreaming is my most productive activity”.

    I drive an old Jeep CJ, top off, loud enough that radio or conversation does not happen – it’s where my best ideas occur – on the road.

  46. Sergey August 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    Maybe it’s(copying) not as bad as everyone wants you to believe. Here, check out this book:

  47. v August 18, 2010 at 1:18 am #

    For photography, I rarely go looking for inspiration really because I do not have the people or resources for elaborate staged shots etc, but I do find this to be a problem in graphic design. The design circles are over saturated with the same icons, grid layouts, swirly flourishes and other elements that make them all look the same – a major mistake by designers. Too often they design from their own unoriginal point of view to make a portfolio of sites that all look like art pieces rather than delivering the client’s needs and creating a look unique to the client. In my own work, it becomes too easy to waste hours on inspiration galleries and easier still to copy someone…to the point where it becomes totally overwhelming and the result? Artist block. so yes, I believe it kills creativity and the only way to get it back is to take a break away from the pc/camera and get back in touch with ones own vision(or if working for a client, a vicarious one)

  48. Mr. Digitech August 18, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    Yep, this is why so many Hollywood movies are junk these days, not enough originality. Just do a sequel or get “inspiration” from a comic book, throw $200 million at it, and rake in the dough.

  49. Michael P August 18, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    For me, inspiration found in others’ art is nothing more than a professional standard toward which I aspire. This differs radically from being a couch potato photographer. Practically, it amounts to critical review of my own work with respect to work produced by top-tier professionals. This means also that I exercise an increasingly high degree of criticism toward said persons’ work, because I want to understand why they’ve chosen to compose and light a scene a certain way. The strain of creative problem-solving is present at every waypoint, and, more often than not, I fall short of the lofty standards I’ve set for myself; still, I fail better each time. :-)

    We all need goals in order to up our game. Role models help set the benchmark for excellence if the attainment of excellence is among one’s goals. I believe that it’s OK to seek inspiration so long as one does not attempt to use it as a substitute for the creative process.

  50. Sue Wotton August 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    For me the inspiration is less about what someone else has been shooting or how they have done it, but about making me want to go out. Sometimes I get stale, I stop going out, I stay indoors and do SFA. I start reading and then that kinda gives me the kick I periodically need, to get outside.

  51. Scott Robertson August 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    I think German filmmaker Jim Jarmusch answered this question best with this quote:

    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc-Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.'”

    The inclusion of “random conversations” as a source of inspiration is particularly poignant to me at this moment. I recently returned from a photographic trip through Iceland. At the end of the trip in Reykjavik I overhead a woman walking down the street mention a private press conference with the singer Bjork. I stopped her and asked for more info. In the end, I was able to make it into the conference (funny story about that) and get a portrait of Bjork — All because I was eavesdropping.

    Chase, I dig your work. I saw you shot in Queenstown, New Zealand not to long ago. I love it there. I toured through that country in a van for 2 months. Hell, I ended up buying land down there. Anyhow, I have a bunch of New Zealand landscapes @ under “landscapes.” Obviously. If you have 5 minutes check ‘em out. Much continued success to you.

    – Scott

  52. Joey Tavares August 18, 2010 at 5:46 pm #

    Nice article Chase….I think inspiration is a wonderful thing, however I have recently blocked other photographers on FB, I view blogs less and focus more on ME! I want to invest my time on how I can go from good to great! I have only a couple mentors that I truly can be dedicated to…other than that, there is absolutely way too much self promotion and look at me on the web…not a bad thing! Bottom line-follow your heart and passion, the rest will come….I’ve devoted 4 years of my life as a paparazzi photographer and realized that none of it is real. I realized how far I really need to keep away from celebrities and ego’s. I now shoot naturally, no editors to contend with…I ignore the competition and it seems like I shoot for fun and embrace new things now…this has increased my creativity 10 fold!!!


    Best of luck to everyone.


  53. Nigel King August 19, 2010 at 2:41 am #

    Cameron Moll has just share a really insightful presentation Good vs. Great(er) Design – See link at end. His take is similar in theme, but uses the words ‘influence’ to describe the activity of trawling the web for images and ideas to regurgitate in your own work.
    ‘Inspiration’ is the the true act of drawing upon your environment and searching your own insights to come up with something truly original – or at least something you can truly call your own.

  54. Greg August 19, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    Man you guys gotta hear what filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky says about cinema… Real Talk!!

  55. Jason Lindsey August 19, 2010 at 5:40 am #

    This all relates to the importance of personal projects and personal shooting. It is a time to explore and fail. You do not have the pressures of money or clients. Take risks, have fun, explore, experiment, fail. We should all start personal projects with the goal of failure.

  56. Martin Beebee August 19, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    Damn — this post hit me right between the eyes this morning. I stopped here on my way to get inspired by watching some more “behind the scenes” videos. . . .

  57. Jon DeVaul August 19, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    Hey, it’s life! Speaking as a photographer, I get inspired by words/stories I’ve read, music, other photographs…life. I see what I consider a great photograph, it inspires me…gets the juices flowing. I see what I consider a bad photograph, the idea may inspire me to try and do a better one. How many times have you set up what you consider a great idea in your mind only to be disappointed at what’s happening on camera…and then something unexpected happens, and you have your dynamite shot. This blog subject has many quotes from other people which helped inspire them to write what they wrote. We’re human beings first and artists second…it’s not a bad thing to be inspired by others as long as we’re not just ripping off someone else’s work. O.K. I’m starting to ramble, so someone stop me already!!

  58. Jon DeVaul August 19, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    Jason, I think I know what you’re getting at, but I would change the wording a bit. I never start any project with “the goal of failure”, but I have wasted a good bit of life not doing things because of “the fear of failure”. Just as bad if not worse is when you have a fear of success, because then you think you’ll eventually be asked to do more complicated projects, and then eventually you’ll fail…I had this also until I got older and realized you just have to on and try…like Nike says “Just Do It”

  59. jlmiller August 19, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    I’m one of these people that never likes to follow the path of others but instead go the opposite way. I like trying something new and different and if it works or has potential I’ll travel that path until I’m pleased with the results, if not I try, try again.

  60. MARKOWEN August 20, 2010 at 2:21 am #

    Inspiration is the spark that starts the fire but our true inner vision is what fuels it.

    If we are limited to artistic in-breeding we inevitably we come up with derivative work sooner or later.

    I guess that is the challenge of using a visual medium. I feel like we missed one more point in the whole equation.


  61. Suzana August 20, 2010 at 5:34 am #

    “Follow no one” but I say more than that don’t reject the good things others discover by following the non followers… is so full of catch 22s!

  62. Michael Ririe August 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Fantastic quote and thoughts. I struggle with this unintentionally. It is far easier to jump online and start thumbing through the hoard of image pollution to find some inspiration… but creativity has always had more originality and integrity! Great post!

  63. tony sweet August 21, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    Look, it’s real simple.
    Inspiration is for amateurs. Professionals deliver.
    I can count the times I’ve gotten truly inspired and more importantly, motivated by inspiration on one hand.
    Nothing replaces hard work and persistence. The end.
    There are no secret handshakes, secret shortcuts, or secret potions.
    Inspiration is not killing anything. Sitting on one’s duff waiting for it, like buying lottery tickets hoping to win
    a retirement fund, is killing creativity.

  64. joy August 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    abso-fing-loutely. I have actually been in the process this year of slowly diluting my blog/website/stumbleupon/internet consumption. In the beginning of my interest in photography it was beneficial, essential even, to consume what was necessary (which was almost everything) in order for me to learn and grow as quickly as I possibly could creatively. Now? Not so much. The occasional kick in the arse that inspiration provides for me now is often my greatest downfall. There are the constant comparisons (positive and negative which carry weighty consequences in either direction), the wasted time and energy (that could have been used to create something amazing) and the back pain…from sitting on my tush doing,absolutely.nothing.

    do i miss out on competitions (that I probably wouldn’t win anyway) because i wasn’t following every second of someone’s blog? sure.

    but I’m a heck of a lot more creatively satisfied.

  65. Lee August 28, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    The Catch 22 is that most of the people reading this, (who are truthful) visit your blog/web site Chase because you inspire them!?! Most “Creatives” (I know) are inspired by most everything around them in one way or another. The difference is the moment inspiration strikes they passionately bring that vision/inspiration to life. What we are talking about here is knowing when inspiration hits how (and when) to move on to doing inspiring things…

    Maybe some of the Creative’s here will find this of interest – this Blog post I came across “In my world, Creative is a Noun…”

  66. Sergey October 25, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    I think that inspiration is help creativity. And even develop online creativity toolkit ( with different techniques for idea generation.

  67. Greg Gilly August 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm #


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  1. ExquisiteLines » Inspiration vs. Creativity - August 16, 2010

    […] Chase Jarvis posted this excerpt: “The reality is that it’s easier to be inspired than it is to create an original idea and we are hardwired to take the path of least resistance. It’s easier to jump onto a design inspiration gallery site than it is to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. It’s easier to follow a pattern than it is to test-drive new options. It’s easier to copy a style or idea that works than try something that might miss the mark or outright fail. Above all, it’s cheaper mentally for us to rally around what’s already been done and emulate it…” […]

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