A lot of creative types crawl the web looking for inspiration and ideas. I do this. I search Pinterest and browse Tumblr (I’m there) to see what other creative, successful people are doing. I say I’m looking for inspiration; but maybe I’m just fishing for excuses.

What starts as “inspiration,” quickly becomes a self-critical kaleidoscope that I’m staring into, looking at so much inspiration that I retreat and say, “I can’t make art that way.”

Recognizing this, I decided to re-evaluate what I’m searching for, and why. Artists create things; our purpose is to redefine and evolve the ground that has already been covered. Oh, the argument of “Has everything been done before, really?” I’m definitely on the boat of, “Yes, we have done everything before, and I’m not sure why we, as a species, are still alive.”

So, I’m not going to do anything new. I’m not going to create art that looks like the work of really successful and talented people. I have to remember I am looking for ideas, inspiration, and searching for new techniques or people to follow. I’m looking for inspiration that enriches my own art, but it’s important to remember my own art is just that: my own. My path to improvement is my own unique path. Finding my niche and forging my way is my own journey.

I love reading about writers. I might, in fact, enjoy reading about writers more than I enjoy the writing of writers. This was the case with many of my literary heroes, including Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. I think back then I was cocky enough to not be daunted by the greatness of their work and how it compared to mine; besides, they were dead. Ohhhh, to be twenty again, and truly believe my work would just… plop… find its way to brilliance and land me in some cushy chair with a comfortably home and money to spare.

Yes. My twenty-year-old self was adorable.

Perhaps I should go back to that, though. I didn’t let the brilliance of other people paralyze me. I did my thing, and sought criticism, but had enough gumption to figure, “eh, not my problem,” when my work got a thumbs down. I took ideas and inspiration from critiques. I relished the lives of other artists—I found their stories and their work inspiring; not defeating.

Which is why I urge fellow seekers of inspiration and creative ideas to step away from Google and Pinterest and Tumblr. Just for a bit—think about your work, your ideas, and where you are within your creative journey. What is your contribution to the inspiration of those around you? Because your art does count; it may not be in the style of this guy, or that guy, or the chick over there. But that is okay. That is completely the point.