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Unlocking Inspiration

Jennifer Kilberg

Jul 21, 2020
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Feeling like you need a boost of inspiration these days? Inspiration is not something one can teach or learn, it comes from within. In today's world we are flooded with so much information; but how do we stay inspired? How do we reignite that creative fire inside? How do we gain inspiration when we are just not feeling it? We're here to provide ideas to help you find that fire and while we know there is no one size fits all formula for harnessing inspiration, our hope is that you can walk away with one golden nugget to help keep you moving forward in your creative process. Many of these points you probably already know, but hopefully, the reminder and seeing them written out will help you to stay inspired to continue creating.

Listen to Music.

According to a new study from the University of California at Berkeley, it suggests that listening to happy music promotes more divergent thinking—a key element of creativity.

“Since music has been shown to improve cognition and enhance learning and memory in other studies, it makes sense that perhaps it has an impact on creative thinking, too.” - Greater Good Magazine

Music can also help your mood and focus which in turn can help your productivity.

The Act of Journaling.

It feels like the act of journaling really gained popularity recently in the last 2-3 years with more and more people utilizing the powerful tool to help get their thoughts out while allowing them to prioritize. Journaling provides an outlet for creative people to get a better grasp on where their head is at and to help find points of creative interest that they might want to elaborate on. New to the activity? Don’t worry - there are many creative journals that provide prompts that can get you started on the right foot. Have you heard of or read “The Artist's Way” by Julia Cameron? If not, it’s a must for any creative person looking to push outside of their comfort zone.

Explore The Great Outdoors.

Nothing is more impressive or inspirational than nature. Get out and discover new environments that surround you or new activities that get you moving; hikes, kayaking, canoeing. Any of these things can bring inspiration. Use your senses and pay attention to the smells, sounds, reflections, colors, and all the wonderful details you discover along the way.

Mind Mapping.

Creating a mind map is a great way to organize your thoughts. It allows you to get out of your head without so much commitment like writing a long essay. Mind maps can be all words, visuals, or a mix of both. Here are the steps you can follow to create your very own mind map:

  1. Create a Central Idea. The central idea is the starting point of your mind map and represents the topic you are going to explore.
  2. Add branches to your map.
  3. Add keywords.
  4. Color code your branches.
  5. Include visual signifiers (e.g. images)

Change Your Environment.

Many of us hyperfocus on the tasks that are at the top of our seemingly never-ending to-do list and then burn out. You tend to feel this more if you are working behind a computer all the time. Try breaking your day up into three-hour time blocks; taking breaks provides a more efficient work ethic. Also if what you are working on allows you to change your environment, try moving to a different room in your home, go to a coffee shop, get outside - whatever the project allows. By changing up your environment you open up your mind to different avenues of inspiration.

Connect With Like-Minded People.

Surround yourself with other creatives; listen to lectures and podcasts, attend seminars or meetups when available to you - being around other inspiring people stretches your thinking and helps you build off the foundation you already have. When you trust those around you, you’re able to be a more vulnerable person and share your thoughts and experiences which in turn can help others to do the same. The act of bouncing ideas helps push your boundaries, get you out of your comfort zone, and create in a way you might not have before.

Create Mood Boards.

More and more we are seeing people create mood boards. Whether you need inspiration for a new room in your home or for your next creative project - mood boards are a great way to get those creative juices flowing. Pinterest is a great tool to start curating ideas as well as pulling screenshots from online forums, or tear sheets in magazines. Mood boards are more about the overall feeling and vibe of the project whereas a storyboard is more about sharing how you want to execute the idea. Speaking of storyboarding, whether it’s a personal project or something for work, there are many apps that can help you organize your thoughts and production needs to help execute your next project.

Break Out of Your Comfort Zone.

Comfort zones are exactly what they sound like, comfortable. However, you will find that your best work comes when you break out of that comfort zone. Try working in a medium that you don't normally do. When we get out of our routine, we learn what we like and what we don’t like. It also allows us room for creative surprise. Getting your hands dirty with gardening or painting are grounding activities that maybe you don’t do often. Challenge yourself by working with a different color palette or playing with mixed media. You never know what inspiration lies right outside your circle of comfort.

On Repeat: The Act of Repetition.

Now, this might sound contradictory to what we just spoke out; getting out of your comfort zone and changing things up. But, hear me out. The discipline of doing the same thing every day for a period of time can actually open up the funnel for new inspiration for personal projects, it can help to create a body of work that can turn into a category on your website, social content, or even a gallery show. I remember when I moved to New York City in 1996. I took a class at ICP and one of the requirements was to shoot a roll of film every day for 70 days straight. When I started the project, I was taking pictures of my surroundings. However, as the days passed I realized that because I was so immersed in what was in front of me (as we all are most of the time) that I forgot to look up and see what was above me. So, I changed my perspective. From there, I began to take a portrait of myself every day. At the time, I was not comfortable having my picture taken so this really helped me become more comfortable with self-portraits. Then, I switched to polaroids; I would manipulate the image; cut open the polaroid, and add in type and drawings to the chalk area. When I was done, I put all the photos together and had one large print made. Although I was doing the same thing every day, it allowed me a ton of personal growth which I really came to appreciate. By discovering your surroundings and looking at them from a different perspective, you allow yourself to view your “same old” environment in beautiful new and creative ways.

Finding and Creating Space.

These days, we are all so busy, always going and moving. It’s important that you allow yourself the time to jump off the hamster wheel; give yourself space to think and process your thoughts. A little pause every now and then gives your mind the space it needs to be creative. COVID was positive in the respect of forcing us to pause when we normally wouldn’t, allowing ourselves to honor our personal needs. When you are limited in what you can do, you have to work with what’s around you.

Activate and Unlock Your Curiosity.

“Activate” and “Unlock” give us an action item, how are you going to do it? What do I like? What makes me unique? What is important to me? What is it that I bring to the table that someone else can’t or is not?

Creativity is all within you, it’s your uniqueness. Allowing it to flow openly and freely is key.