Getting Inspiration from Yourself

So last week I’m working on this video for a client and as is often the case, I need some inspiration to kick start the old creative juices. I’m about to type in the URL of any of the number of amazing filmmakers and colleagues whose work I admire when it dawns on me, “Hmmm, what if I watch a few of my older pieces that are in a similar genre as this piece. Something I haven’t looked at for a while?” Not only am I inspired, but I’m pleasantly surprised. “Wow. I was/am pretty darn good.” The juices start flowing and I’m off and running.

I Like Me! I Really Like Me?

That subtitle is a comic allusion to the now famous Oscar acceptance speech Sally Field did for her role in 1984’s “Places in the Heart.” In that speech she’s excited at the fact that despite whatever doubts she may have had about herself in the industry, that Oscar win proved that her colleagues really liked her and admired her work.

But you know what, it’s okay if you really, really like yourself too. When you need creative inspiration, try drinking in some of your old work, and be re-inspired.

Now, I’m sure that many of you are thinking the same thing. That it’s hard for you to look at your old stuff because you’ve improved so much more since then. You don’t want to move backward, you want to move forward. I get that. And I’m not saying look at your old garbage. But as visual artists, we all have had those few projects that seemed to transcend even our own skill at the time. When we connected with a project in such a meaningful way we totally “hit it out of the park.” Go back and look at those.

Or, maybe there was a time when you were in a different space in your life and it affected the work you did. Just because some of your work may be older, doesn’t mean it can’t inspire you. Think about it. Choose any successful filmmaker with a 20+ year history and I guarantee you can go back to some of their earlier work and see genius. Look no further than Woody Allen. Allen’s movies from the 70s are considered some of the best in cinema history. “Annie Hall.” “Manhattan.” “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” “Hannah and Her Sisters.” Films over 30 years old that rival (and IMHO surpass) much of the more contemporary films we watch today. But it’s not just Woody. Scorcese. Spielberg. Cameron. They all have naturally improved “technically” as filmmakers over the years, but have earlier work on every film critic’s top 100 films of all time list.

So, is there an “Annie Hall,” a “Mean Streets” or an “E.T.” in your repertoire that has the potential to kick start your creative juices? I’m sure there is.