I never went to art school. Instead, I went to college like many others and completed a more traditional degree in history. No, it’s not boring. In fact, studying history gave me the foundation to learn so many other things.
In fact, I’ve never stopped learning history. My favorite genre to read is history. I can’t get enough. Shhh…don’t tell anyone.
What if I told you, learning history makes your more creative? The best part too, you don’t have to spend four years of your life in school to do it either.
History Teaches Creativity
Before you say history is boring, I ask you to separate the traditional ways we learn history: sitting in a classroom being lectured too and think about the past as a story. One giant, ongoing, hopefully never-ending, novel.
Did I mention history is full of some really interesting, amazing, terrifying and beautiful characters?
If you look back over time, the events that shaped the world were decided by characters. Human beings no different from us. They just happened to be in certain places at certain times.
But the past is filled with creative moments that pushed the world forward. These moments of clarity and inspiration gave us some really cool pieces of art, technology, medicine, architecture, food, the list goes on.
A Brief History Lesson
Before I go on, let’s dive into a few examples of historical importance.
Let’s go way back to the creation of paper because let’s be honest, where would many of us artists be without paper?
We can thank the Chinese around 100 BC for inventing paper. A great tool for many purposes obviously. The creative idea in the invention of paper was let’s get away from parchment. We need something that is easily mass-produced.
Now if only everyone could read. But you see how the necessity sparked creativity.
Fast forward 1500 years or so and Mr. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Oh, let the masses rejoice! Now, let’s not forget how Buddhist monks used blocks to print on the paper mentioned above. Again, in my opinion, a creative idea that moved humanity forward.
Let’s talk about some politically related history and a guy by the name of Tomas Paine. His thoughts in Common Sense contributed to the American Revolution and that whole concept egalitarian government. Check out the book here.
Find Your Inspiration
Now I’m obviously picking out some well-known historical events and keeping things really simple. The point here is the people who invented paper, mass-produced writing, and pushed radical new political ideas were inspired.
They saw a need and came up with ideas to solve problems. They didn’t accept the rules as they were and started revolutions. Think about Martin Luther and his treatises. He started a revolution almost unwittingly and then ran with it.
Where would we be without these, in my opinion, creative individuals? History teaches us many things. We need to understand the past so we can grasp our present and shape our future.
How To Foster Your Creativity
You can improve your own creativity and inspire yourself through history in several ways. Again, no, you don’t need a degree in art history or any history to do this. All you need is your local library.
- Read. Reading history is the single best way to learn it. If you do nothing else, do this. Go to your library and browse the history section. You will be amazed at the topics and events covered.
- Write. Write your own history. This takes things a little further, but pick an event or a person in your past and write a short narrative about the person or the event.
- Research. This involves more reading, but get specific. Pick a historical event and learn everything you can about it. Ask yourself why? Who? Where? When?
- Visit a museum. Any museum will do. The treasures you will find will educate you and spark ideas in you. There’s much to learn.
To be inspired by history, you have to participate in history. Study some art history too. Learn about the classical greats. Study some surrealism and pop-art. Don’t forget about the Cubists. I find inspiration through landscape art especially.
Thomas Gainsborough Mountain Landscape With Bridge c.1783/1784
One of my favorite online resources is the Library of Congress. The databases are extensive and the images are forever. You will easily be inspired by the countless topics, the photographs, and the history. And it’s all online!
If you’re struggling to stay inspired, look to the past. Learn something from past events and people. You will see that obstacles to creativity are easily overcome when you draw inspiration from history. If nothing else, you will better yourself by learning something new. Don’t be bored by history, embrace it and learn!
Go. Be. Create!
What from history inspires you?
Also published on Medium.