The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. -Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
Many great writers have said plainly that writing is hard work. From Ernest Hemmingway to Stephen King, they emphasize the importance of commitment and toiling over your work, even when you don’t feel like it. I imagine this truth is the same for other art forms – painting, composing, design, and all the rest. I understand the importance of work and putting in the time, but where do you start when your treasure chest of inspiration is empty?
Tomorrow is my birthday, my own personal new year and a time I traditionally make a resolution. In the year ahead I want to focus more on writing. To my frustration I have lacked the inspiration and motivation to write much in the past few months. It is a struggle we all face from time to time.
Here are a few methods (some I have tried and others I plan to try) for finding creative inspiration:
Change your environment. We are creatures of habit and tend to work in the same spaces. One option is to change an aspect of those spaces. Hang some new artwork. Light table lamps or candles instead of overhead lights. Rearrange your furniture to face a different direction. Sit on the floor instead of the couch. Do whatever makes sense for your workspace and art form.
A second option is to work someplace else. When I was in high school, two of my favorite places to write when I needed more focus were the roof and my closet. Change to a different room in your house. Sit on your front porch or work in your back yard. Go to a café, library, a park, anyplace that gives you a different view and a different ambience than your usual space.
Meditate. Sometimes the more you focus on a creative project, the more clarity and inspiration seem to slip away from you. Then your frustration makes it even worse. Meditation can help clear your mind of all the noise and bring you back to your point of focus. I recently downloaded the Headspace app per a recommendation. It has a mediation series for many things, including creativity.
Listen to music. Music stirs up emotions and memories. Indulge in your favorites or check out something new. When I was in elementary school, one day a week I attended an alternative program for gifted kids. After recess, we would all lie on the floor with the lights off, listen to a piece of instrumental music, and let our imaginations take over. Afterwards we wrote about the thoughts, images, and stories that emerged in our minds. It was my favorite part of the day.
Seek out visual stimulation. We are very visual creatures. On a recent episode of Gretchen Rubin’s podcast “Happier,” she suggested finding inspiration by reading three magazines you would not normally read. You can gain exposure to new subject matter and ideas by reading the articles or by simply flipping through the pages since magazine are image heavy. There are also many great books of photography and art prints with striking imagery. Buy them, check them out from the library, or browse at a local bookstore.
Read poetry. Poetry, like music, is concentrated emotion and ideas. It is lyrical, beautiful, and often ambiguous. It leaves room for interpretation and imagination. It is also short and often easy to read. I recommend Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Rumi, just to name a few.
Go for a walk. Sometimes a breath of fresh air can work wonders on your creative aspirations. With each step and brush of the wind, you feel more a part of the world around you. You can listen to the sounds of daily life happening around you and focus for a bit on simply living in that moment and observing all of that life. It is refreshing and inspiring.
Take yourself on an artist date. I got this idea from the book The Artist’s Way, which I highly recommend reading and practicing. Take your self some place new or to one of your favorite places that has inspired you in the past. Artist dates of my own include visiting a local museum and hiking through the nature reserve. Taking time out from your daily routine to spend some quality time with just yourself in a creative space helps bring clarity to your thoughts and is a great way to find creative inspiration.
Free write/paint/draw/knit/etc. Sometimes we over think things, and the best way to pave the way for creativity is to stop the chaotic thought process. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just do your thing! Do what feels right and trust your creative outpour. What you create though simple instinct may surprise you and inspire you to keep going.
Regardless of the pathway to creative inspiration that works best for you, the key is to let go of your frustration. Negativity will inevitably block the flow of ideas. Relax, open your mind, and trust that inspiration will come to you.