Nurturing artistic creation: an exploration into the experience of creative inspiration using the four worlds model

Sasha S
Publication Date
01st Sep 2013
MA in Existential Coaching


The importance of creativity is often overlooked and there are many compelling reasons why it should be at the forefront of our minds. Turiano, Spiro, and Mroczek (2012) have found a correlation between self-identification as creative and increased life expectancy. In business, creativity was identified as the top indicator of success by 1,500 CEO’s in a worldwide 2010 IBM study. It ranked higher than integrity, rigour and vision. Despite this, Kyung Hee Kim (2010) has noted a steady decline in children’s creativity levels in the USA over the last 20 years.

Inspiration is a term which many seem confident using in conversation, but when asked to define the word, or even to describe the act of being inspired, it can be difficult to come up with something which accurately summarises the experience. When I first decided to write this thesis, I was struck by the response of friends and family to my choice of topic. They seemed somewhat taken aback, and invariably commented that it was a difficult task. As well as feeling intimidated by this feedback, I was encouraged to go ahead, as this reflected the reasons for my initial interest in the concept. My 5


previous experience working in the arts combined with my current role as an existential coach has led to a passion for helping artists with various creative dilemmas.

At this point, I must state that my use of the word artist is not restricted to people who practice what is sometimes known as 'fine art' (painters and sculptors for example) but extends to anyone engaging in artistic creation, thus including novelists, filmmakers, graphic designers and other such creators. For the purposes of this paper, I am excluding those who work exclusively as performers, simply because the role of inspiration in performance is likely to differ from more prolonged forms of creation such as writing.

Through both my experiences with my clients and my own personal involvement with the creative process, I began to realise that while inspiration is theoretically accepted as a part of that process, in practice its significance tends to be, in my view, underestimated. I noticed that my clients tended to refer only to inspiration as a moment already experienced, a trigger point for them to begin a project, but that seemed to lose its impact once the work had begun. And yet, if asked to describe the moment of inspiration - after some hesitation - there came a passionate and rich response. It was as if they could embrace the experience at the very beginning of a project, but that the power it held could not be revisited and was almost shameful to them. It was a moment of vulnerability that served its purpose and was swiftly buried under the hard work which is also imperative for creative work.

The stories of these artists were often prefaced with phrases like 'this is going to sound really stupid' and accompanied by a sudden loss of eye-contact in an otherwise engaged session. Often, it was only after some gentle encouragement that these clients were able to engage fully with the memory and to communicate the powerful impact it had had at the time. This has made me wonder about three questions. 6


Firstly, why is the seemingly powerful experience of inspiration met with such apprehension? Secondly, is inspiration something that only occurs at the birth of a new creative project or is it something that we can utilise throughout the creative process? Finally, given that inspiration is such a powerful experience, is it possible to actively pursue it rather than waiting for it to strike?

I began looking more closely at the literature surrounding creativity and found much about how to increase or train it, but very little specifically about inspiration. This surprised me as it seemed such a key moment in the creative process and unleashed such passion when my clients felt able to engage with it. At the core of my questions lies my concern that we seem somehow reluctant to fully engage with the experience of being inspired. This is mirrored by the dearth of literature, and in the responses of friends and family to my thesis subject. Therefore, the key question that I am endeavouring to answer is: how can existential coaching encourage an artist to realise their creative potential by engaging with the experience of being inspired?