Ben Billups - Creative Instinct

From our guest author, Ben Billups.

I was literally on a mountain with a guru when I had this creative epiphany.

Except I had a shotgun in my hands, and the guru was a shooting instructor named Stuart.

“Now, when you call ‘pull’ forget everything I told you.”

This wasn’t the first time an instructor had given me this advice, but it was the first time I really listened. Every time I managed to hit a clay pigeon, I wasn’t thinking about it — I was doing it.

Inspiration always seems to arrive at the most inconvenient times. But it’s those who choose to act on the inspiration who are crowned with the enigmatic title “creative.”

And, of course, we have to turn everything into a business — the music business, the film business, the design business — which is great for paying the bills, but also misleading in the way it presumes the artist is capable of controlling inspiration. Sure, Justin Bieber can always make another song, but that’s not what his fans are paying for. They’re paying for art.

(Please note that Justin Bieber is merely used as an example for SEO purposes. If anyone leaves a comment asking “What do you mean?” I will throw my computer out of the window and turn to a life of crime.)

But what is art?

Shouldn’t we at least understand what we’re selling? Well, I’m totally unqualified to answer this question, so I’m going to do it anyway: art is shared experience — either capturing, interpreting, or transferring experience. Good art just connects more broadly, or more deeply, depending on your purpose.

You may completely disagree with my definition, and that’s okay because, for me, this has been the key — oh, not my incomparable definition of art, the key was the thing right before that: doing it anyway. The moment we have to be “qualified” in order to do, we’re bound to intellectualize what we’re doing. Once we’ve intellectualized it, we’ve missed the point.

For most of my education, I was taught through speech, debate, and moot court to analyze everything. And I still do, it’s a great way to understand. But the problem with understanding is that it’s fundamentally grounded in hindsight.

We’re creatives. We want to make something honest, authentic, and empathetic — something that’s alive. And for that we need inspiration.

Let’s get back to skeet shooting:

Once the target is flying, if I’m busy thinking about my form, my aim, and the strength of the breeze, the target is already gone. Inspiration is the same way. It’s a moment which must be captured. And the only way to effectively capture a moment is to be in the moment. Inspiration is an experience, not a system.

The only way something unconventional is ever achieved is because of a unique creative impetus. And while it’s completely possible to arrive at convention through instinct, instinct is the only way to honestly create anything.

Experiencing and capturing a moment simultaneously is essentially a matter of inspiration and instinct, not of formula. Creative formulas are like scientific theories: they’re established through observation, analysis, and repetition. But the beauty of creativity is that something only has to work once to be a proven theory.

Obviously, you plan quite a lot.

You make decisions and set limitations for yourself to nurture the inspiration and guide the end result. A team of NASA scientists make a huge number of calculations to make sure the rocket lands on the moon, but changing the rocket’s trajectory mid-course would endanger everything.

My own creative learning curve lately has been to allow inspiration to inspire and instinct to do. Analysis can sometimes lead to inspiration, and it can also guide an instinct. But once the rocket comes alive and you’re in the stratosphere, stop thinking and just do.

You’re creating an experience

Whether you’re a filmmaker, a web designer, a painter, or a musician — you’re creating an experience for someone else. And on the modern web, each of these art forms are quickly becoming simultaneous experiences. You’re impacting another human being by giving them something they didn’t have before, so let who you are influence how you make your art. Make it personal.

So the next time someone tells you that your job as a creative isn’t rocket science, just remember that it pretty much is.



Bio: Ben is a filmmaker, web designer, AV tech, writer, and economics student at Thomas Edison State College. As the Creative Director at ioLanche, he manages designs and directs videos for their YouTube channel. You can find Ben on Twitter, Instagram, Medium, and Google Plus.