5 Things that Un-inspire Me

I’ve talked a fair amount about inspiration in the past. It’s a common topic I am asked to discuss and it’s a theme I find myself revisiting fairly frequently as my studio habits evolve. Going back to my “what inspires me” lists can be a good way to climb out of a creative rut too!

So, with “inspiration” fairly well covered for now, I thought I might talk a bit about my anti-inspiration, uninspiration; the things that take that creative spark and just snuff it right out.

EH Sherman 5 things that Destroy Inspiration

But first, let me define what I’m going to refer to as ‘uninspiration’. I don’t mean those ‘creative-blah’ days, or those phases we go through where we just aren’t psyched about the work we’re making. (Those are topics for another day and I don’t think they deserve their terrible reputations anyway!) I’m talking about being ready to work, brushes cleaned and canvas laid out - when boom, creative juices sapped. The willpower/passion/energy to work has just up and left the building.

5 Things “Un-inspire” Me:


1.) Exhaustion.

There’s only so much caffeine in the world. Nothing drains my creative willpower more than a few all-nighters, or a really REALLY busy schedule. Over the years I’ve had my full-time studio practice I’ve come to realize the immense importance of actually getting enough sleep. In this age of ‘soloprenuerism’ it’s common - even desirable to run ourselves ragged. To chase the dream until the point of exhaustion… to hustle until our bodies just give out. And that just doesn’t work for me. Thankfully I’ve gotten better about my sleep schedule (at least 7 hours on the regular!) and scheduling my projects to allow for a bit of recuperation at the end.

2.) Doing Too Much.

I love a challenge. Due to this, I also used to have a bad habit of taking on more than I could handle, assuming I could “make it work” in my schedule. There was a paralyzation that I would sometimes experience when my lists were too long, and I was trying to reply to too many emails. Knowing I had an unrealistic amount of work to accomplish that day was to be a surefire way for me not to get anything done. In the last few years I’ve adopted a much more realistic way to plan and budget, knowing that multi-tasking isn’t really my thing. Ron Swanson summed it up brilliantly, “Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”

3.) Uncomfortable clothes.

It sounds silly, but if my socks are itchy or my pants fit weirdly I will have a hard time proceeding with my work. I move a lot when I make my paintings, most of them are rooted in the motion my arm makes across the page, so anything that restricts movement is an absolute no-go. It may be cute, but if I can’t comfortably pop into a few yoga poses it’s not something I’ll wear in the studio. My usual outfit consists of a soft t-shirt under my favorite blue button-up (now covered in paint) and some good stretchy yoga pants. I think this applies to rest of my life as well as this point, not just the creative aspects of it. The older I get, the softer I want my fabrics I suppose.

4.) Weird smells. (don’t laugh!)

My nose is suuuuper sensitive. I can’t complain too much, it’s saved me from a possible apartment fire back in college. ((I woke up to a weird smell, traced it to my fridge and apparently it had just started sparking. Thankfully I was able to disconnect power before it caught on fire.)) This can also get in the way. A neighbor across the hall in Miami used to cook some very pungent dishes every now and then, and the smell would be so strong to me that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my work. I would go for a walk, or work outside instead, there was just no way I’d be able to ignore the scent. I now stock up on good vanilla candles, in case of a weird smell emergency.

5.) No clear plan.

Sometimes the plan can be “no plan”, but that’s still a plan. If I approach a blank canvas with truly nothing in mind, nothing comes from the work. If I want to paint but am unsure of where to start I usually peruse a few old sketchbooks until something calls out to me.

I realize these are relatively specific and a bit personal, so your 5 things are more than likely going to be entirely different. I’m really curious to know what yours are; what pulls you out of your work mode? What “un-inspires” you?