London rapper Mr Ekow (AKA Chris Gaisie) kicked off a new vlog for independent artists in January, and since then, it’s been going from strength to strength. After dealing with topics like collaboration, networking and performance, this week he’s addressing the whole idea of inspiration – and I think that this one is especially relevant.
The basic point that Mr Ekow raises is simple: inspiration is great, but we cannot wait around for it to hit us. Yes, there are times when we’ll pick up the pen, open the laptop, turn on the camera (whatever it may be) and it’s like we’re swimming in a slipstream of creative energy. However, we cannot rely on those times. Instead, we need to take a far more holistic approach to inspiration if we are to develop in our practice. He gives 2 really helpful tips to help us with this:
Make sure you are staying inspired
Making art is not just about the moments when we’re making art. We need to live our whole lives in a way that will enable us to create more effectively and increase the likelihood of getting inspired. This could involve engaging in art generally, whether it’s in your own artform or not, spending time purposefully with nature, or ensuring you seek out the right people and conversations.
For me, this year, I’ve decided to be much more purposeful in my reading, but especially in the area of poetry. I’ve always had an appreciation for poetry, but, if I’m being honest, I’ve never been able to dig very deep into this artform to really unearth the treasures that I know are hidden underneath the surface. So, one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 was to learn how to read poems. I’m not intending to become a poet, in the classical sense of the word, but I’m already finding this exercise helpful in fueling my other creative enterprises.
Another thing that I’ve found helpful in this area is logging ideas. One of my most valued possessions is a particular lyrics book: brown moleskin cover; half-mutilated spine; page after page of verses, story ideas, observations, and random thoughts. On the top right hand corner of most pages are lists of multi syllable rhymes. I’ve developed some of these fragments into songs that I’ve recorded or performed live, but most of it will never leave the pages of my lyric book. But it all matters. Simply having the book on the shelf has meant that I’m always looking for new ideas to fill its pages, which means I’m fueling possible future moments of inspiration or simply giving myself something to draw on, if someone ever says: ‘I need a rap verse or a short story. And I need it now!’
Mr Ekow’s advice is to find the things that lead to inspiration for you and take time out of your week specifically to do whatever that is. It all might sound very technical and pre-meditated, but I think he puts it best and most succinctly when he wraps this all up in one simple instruction: ‘Enjoy life’.
Have you got so caught up in making art that you’ve forgotten to enjoy life? If so, you’re likely to struggle to get inspired, and struggle to create any work that engages with the world around you.
Commit to creativity
Building in patterns of life, conducive to inspiration is one thing, but you need to carve out an outlet as well. Mr Ekow suggests putting a time in your diary to create, and to follow through on this, whether you feel inspired or not.
Of all that he says in the video, this is the point that resonates with me most. To make art, you have to make art. To make powerful, engaging, wonder inspiring, heart grabbing, beautiful art, you need to make lots of art (most of which won’t deserve any of those adjectives!) And you need to do this whether you feel like it or not. Whether you feel like you’re on fire, or out cold. Whether you feel like the Holy Spirit is whispering in your ear or you feel like God has gone on holiday.
Put a time in your diary to create, and follow through on this, whether you feel inspired or not
Huw Evans told me recently of a time years ago when he decided he wanted to improve as a writer. He was married, working a full time job and had 4 kids, so there were certainly other things vying for his attention. However, he decided to start somewhere and set aside 2 hours from 11am-1pm every Saturday to write. Large portions of these writing sessions were spent staring at a blank piece of paper, but he committed to it and disciplined himself to fill up those blank pages. Now, decades later, he is about to release his first poetry collection and has other books in the pipeline too. He committed to creativity and it is paying off.
Are you committing to your creativity? When are you carving out time to create, regardless of inspiration?
Mr Ekow sums all of this up perfectly at the end of the video:
‘We get so afraid of creating outside of these inspiration moments that we end up not creating anything… don’t wait for inspiration to strike; make sure that you are being inspired weekly, commit to creativity and perfect your craft to enable your art.’
Thanks so much Chris for being so generous with your wisdom. Subscribe to his Youtube channel to keep up with future vlogs. Trust me, the riches will just keep coming!
Jonny Mellor is a rapper, a writer, and the director of Sputnik.