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Eric S. Filsonfilmmaker & cinematographer

It’s hard being a creative person. Often I find myself getting discouraged because I am simply “trying to survive”. I get distracted and plod along in the mundane, though always yearning to aspire to something greater; to do something exciting and new. There are things that can be done to get out of the rut. Check out this article (below) by Katie Armstrong titled “Inspiration Motivation - Make Something Now!

If you've ever voluntarily stared at a water stain on your ceiling or spent an entire day refreshing Facebook, it's safe to say you know a thing or two about procrastination. Some folks might say that the dreaded P-word is the result of laziness or inability, but I have a different theory: What if we procrastinate simply because we don't know where or how to begin?

The act of creating something new — whether it be a video, a painting or a soufflé — can be daunting. So daunting, in fact, that even the idea of getting started is capable of freezing every last drop of your creative juices. After all, the only thing scarier than missing a deadline or gaining 15 pounds because you ate the entire contents of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to avoid the task at hand is failing at something you worked really, really hard to finish. Sometimes, to avoid failure, our minds trick us into not starting at all. But where's the satisfaction in that?

John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) once said that "Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating." In this lesson, I will share with you some handy tips for both combating your failure-fears, and utilizing the Internet as a tool for inspiration, not distraction. Creativity is a highly subjective creature, and what works for some of us may not work for all, so don't fret if some of these pointers don't ring true for you.

Without further ado, let's get started. That's what this is all about, isn't it!?

+ Set limits
One of the most overwhelming aspects of getting started is the fact that there are just too many options — it's like staring into the Grand Canyon with an end goal of pinpointing the single most beautiful stone. Avoid paralysis à la possibility by setting constraints or rules for your project. Maybe your next video has to be under 60 seconds and entirely black and white. Perhaps it must only contain still images with a narrative voice-over. Not sure where to get started? Check out these easy (and fun!) Vimeo Projects.

+ Always carry a notebook
Inspiration is literally everywhere. I mean it! You don't realize how often you're stimulated until you start keeping a record. Write. If you've come across a filmmaker you particularly like, put down their name so you can obsessively Google them later. If you overhear a poignant quote on the Subway, jot it down so you can incorporate it into your next animation. The more inspiration you collect, the richer a resource you have to rifle through for ideas later. The more ideas you have on hand, the easier it is to find a jumping-off point for a new project. Plus, we really don't get to exercise our handwriting muscles anymore. Relish the satisfaction of putting pen to paper!

+ Think of every project as an experiment
It's easy to approach each of our creative ventures as the end-all, be-all of our existence, and for good reason! We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into what we make. The tricky part is, this amount of pressure is debilitating. Your inner critic wants to push you toward perfection, but this doesn't leave room for play. When we think of our work as an experiment instead of a "piece" or "film," we give ourselves room to make mistakes. When we're able to relax, we're able to go places we've never gone and surprise ourselves with new ideas. If it doesn't work out, guess what? It was just an experiment anyway. On to the next!

+ Keep your web-addictions at bay
It's no secret that the Internet can become a time-devouring black hole if not kept in check. Even if you come across particularly inspiring content on the web, the rate at which you click links and move through page after page of stuff makes it difficult to retain and use that gold in your own work. Use bookmarks, RSS feeds, and organizational sites like Pinterest or Tumblr to keep tabs on content that moves you. More importantly, give yourself allotted slots of time to browse and stick to them! Set an alarm. When the alarm goes off, step away from the machine and don't turn back. It's time to get in the zone, and it's easier to do so if you eliminate the biggest distraction known to mankind.

+ Work on more than one experiment at a time
It is inevitable that, at some point during your creative process, you will hit a wall or two and will need a break. Utilize that time to switch gears and work on a completely different project instead of heading to your computer to post a series of sad emoticons with angsty hashtags on Twitter.

+ Surround yourself with stimulating people
Something I loved very much about art school was the built in community of creative folks. We were constantly bouncing ideas off of one another, borrowing material, and evolving as a group simply from interacting on a daily basis. Luckily, the Internet makes it very easy to find and stay in touch with creative communities. Take a stroll through Vimeo Groups!

+ Borrow ideas
Don't be afraid to riff off of someone else's awesome idea in your own experiment. The cool thing about human beings is that it's nearly impossible for us to create an exact replica of anything. In fact, one of the best ways to learn is by imitation — most artists train for years by copying the work of the old masters. It's impossible for you to not add your own personal twist. Think of it as contributing to the greater conversation. As Francis Ford Coppala once said: "We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can't steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that's how you will find your voice . . . and then one day someone will steal from you."

+ Embrace boredom, be patient
When all else fails, put on your shoes and take a walk. Don't turn your computer on. Let your mind wander. Allow yourself to feel quiet and open for an hour. Stare out of a window or lie down on the floor until you feel calm and focused. Then get back to work!

Finally, don't forget that all your failed experiments and frustrated hours are just part of the process. The joy of releasing something you've made into the world is unlike anything else — remember that you deserve that joy. Give yourself the time and space to attain it. Bon courage!