I often get asked when I started drawing. There’s a complicated answer to this. If we’re being technical, I started drawing as a little kid, just like every other little kid in elementary school. I made scribbles and doodles with crayons. I say this part to emphasize that I wasn’t, by any means, a prodigy. Some may look at my art now and call it talent, and ultimately confuse this talent as something I was lucky enough to be born with. Some then make a point to say that they have no talents, and therefore cannot draw or do anything else because they missed out on developing a talent as a kid. I believe in a different theory. After all these years, this is my insight on the matter:
What I want people to realize, first and foremost, is that we should not be searching for talents, but rather, sources of inspiration. Let’s break down the word “inspiration”. According to the wonderful, omniscient google, the definition of this word is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”
The earliest moments of inspiration in our lives are crucial. These moments affect how we develop in terms of skills and social interactions. When you look at talented people, or people with skills they’ve developed over a lifetime (athletes, artists, chefs, etc.), more often than not it started with a moment of inspiration as children, or maybe even a little later on in life. Going back to my personal example, yes, I drew in class like the rest of the kids there. But what made me stick with it? What made me get to where I am? The answer is inspiration. In other words, how we react to moments of inspiration defines us.
With that definition established, I’ll share with you one of my first memories:
I was 4 years old. It was my first trip to SeaWorld. I was watching the Shamu show, witnessing the killer whales gliding through the water, the theatrical jumps, the music. It absolutely blew my mind. I remember going home, and for some reason I felt the need to grab a piece of paper and pen and draw what I saw that day. The shapes and linework were sloppy, but it was there. I drew two (or was it three?) killer whales, and I was so damn proud of myself. It was unlike anything I’ve ever scribbled. I look back at this moment and realize that this was the first time I ever felt inspired, and this drawing was a testament to that memory.
I don’t have that artwork anymore, but I think back on it and realize that this was the starting point to my art journey. From there, I began to actively draw what I saw around me. Drawing was a release. At first, I accepted my lack of skills, but it was also satisfying to watch myself improve as I got older. I did not mind spending hours in my room, staying up into the ungodly hours as I honed this craft. I drew the things that inspired me. I drew the things that represented how I felt. I drew things for other people. I drew things for myself. Drawing, among other things, defined me, and I defined the paradigms of drawing in my life.
Understand that drawing did not start as a talent for me. It started as a necessary release. It was a compulsion to do something after feeling inspired, and I just so happened to respond to a moment of inspiration in that manner at an early age. Eventually I was curious/motivated enough to develop the skill aspect of it later. With that said, I have plenty of friends who complain of having no particular talent. I think in in reality they’re looking at the problem the wrong way. Talent is merely having skills in something, and that is something that can be worked on. If anything, it’s not talent that people lack, but hobbies and sources of inspiration.
I say don’t look for a talent; look for a hobby- or simpler still, find something that inspires you. You might scratch your head and think you don’t feel inspired or can’t recall a defining moment- and that’s a lie. If it helps, think of a moment where you felt genuinely happy, or any strong emotion. Sadness, anger, desire- these can all be pathways for inspiration as well. Were you compelled to do or feel something? How did you express it? Did it help you process the moment? When you become aware of the answers to these questions, there’s a few steps you can take to develop passions.
I believe that at any age, you can always find a hobby or activity that helps you, but it has to be a hobby for you. I cannot stress enough the important for each of us to have something that gives us a release, and that thing could be anything (writing, sports, even mundane things like gardening or cooking). How do we find that, you ask? It starts by being curious, taking risks, and being receptive to inspiration.
In order to get good at something, you have to be curious enough to learn about it. When I was 5 or 6, I was sitting in Saturday masjid school with an older girl. I noticed the cover on her binder, a drawing she made of an anime girl with green hair. I was so fascinated by the coloring technique of that hair. I easily became distracted from the class material by observing those lines and highlights. When I went home, I tried to practice by recreating that drawing (of course, with no success because I simply didn’t have the skills yet). Some people may have glanced at that drawing and not cared a bit. For some reason, I did. And isn’t that fascinating? The vast potential we all have- to be receptive to different sources of inspiration, and curious enough to chase after it?
With this, it’s crucial to take risks. If you want to actively search for a passion, you must be willing to explore different activities. Google questions you have about anything. Explore different options. Take classes in things that seem interesting to you, be it swimming, dancing, cooking, etc. Even if you lack the skills, do it because you like it. You might completely suck in the beginning, or maybe you’ll realize that you don’t like the activity you’re exploring and feel like you wasted time. That’s the risk part. There’s also the issue of time. Some people make the excuse that they can’t make the time for their hobbies (or finding them) because they’re stressed and have other priorities. What if it’s the opposite? What if taking the time to get back to the hobbies that relaxed them was what provided the energy to continue the other work they’ve been stressing over? These are all risks that must be considered, but I can guarantee that in one form or another, it will pay off.
The third thing I mentioned that will lead to inspiration is being open to it. When you remain curious, and take risks, you are opening yourself to finding inspiration. When you make the active intention to be inspired, more often than not it will happen to you. Again, the key here is making the intention (this particular subject is a whole other beast to tackle, so perhaps more information on intentions will be given in a different blog post).
Earlier, I answered the “what” questions, like what made it possible for me become better at drawing. The answer to that was inspiration, as that is “what” allows the process to happen. There’s still a “why” question that goes with this. When I refer to my SeaWorld origin story, I basically reacted to my defining moment of inspiration by drawing, but why did I react this way? Why was I compelled to drawing specifically? And why did I get better at drawing whereas other people didn’t, instead choosing to be performers, the top players in soccer, the smartest kids in science, the most insightful writers?
This, I don’t have an answer for. I think this is a mystery, and it is connected to our purpose in life (if you believe in destiny, that is). The goal is to find that answer in our lifetimes and make that connection between our inspirations and our purpose. It can be an ambiguous, frustrating path, but I think that mystery makes it all the more fascinating for me. However, while some things are destined to happen to us, like compulsions to do or feel as a result of inspirations, we have the choice to actively seek or continue the journey. We can exercise curiosity, open-mindedness, and risk-taking to develop passions.
Let’s also talk about the importance of feeling inspired, and what that does for, well, humanity itself. As people- as human beings, it is in our very nature to connect, create, do, and share as a means of survival. We all do this in similar and different ways, but the action is there all the same. At the very primitive level, when we become compelled to do or feel something, we enable that essential process to continue happening for the progression of our species. When we do it consciously and willingly, sometimes this translates to passion, which interestingly means “to suffer” when you interpret its Latin roots. Some philosophers would argue that our purpose in this world is to suffer, for that is what gives our lives meaning. I don’t mean this in a masochistic way (unless you’re into that, but that’s a different story), but rather that our purpose is to find the things we’d happily suffer for. A cause is a good example, in particular the people who dedicate their lives to a certain cause by investing their time and energy, even though it gets hard at times. Or maybe you can think about this in the context of sports- the way that athletes suffer in training so that they can experience the glory of competition later. Overall, suffering gives meaning, and it can push us to make things happen for ourselves and communities around us. And it all starts with getting inspired.
The way I see it, I strive to find my passions because I want to suffer for something I care about in this world. I believe that my purpose in this existence is to suffer, alongside to worship God. I pray that I can use whatever passions I discover in order to accomplish this. This is simply my testament to living, and I am aware that the testaments of others differ. Whatever that testament is, I implore everyone to find that source of inspiration, that moment that moves you to connect, create, do, share, and ultimately, be human.
Question of the day: what is YOUR source of inspiration? Comment below!