When inspiration comes, powerful things happen in the creative mind. A novelist could add five chapters to a book after months of struggling to get it started. A painter could finally face the blank canvas and bring an idea to life with broad, self-confident strokes.
But just like lightning, inspiration doesn’t always hit the same place twice. It may not be repeatable on the same day, week, or even month. You can’t exactly bottle it to save for later, so you never know when that wonderful stream of creative energy will return.
As elusive as inspiration is, there is an easy way to maintain it. The answer is hidden in the public eye, embedded in the definition of the word itself. Open your Oxford English Dictionary, flip through the self and you will find that inspiration “is the process of being mentally stimulated to do or do something to feel, especially to do something creative ”.
So inspiration can be sporadic, but maybe not indefinitely. If you want to lead an inspired life, surrounding yourself with the right stimuli is important. From the media you consume to the conversations you have, anything can spark the next wave of inspiration in your life.
Getting more of these experiences is just a matter of practice and commitment. To find your inspirational groove, follow these powerful tips to help develop your best ideas.
1. Add some green to your workspace.
When you need more inspiration than a naked office can give you, surround yourself with plants. According to research by Human Spaces, people who work in environments with natural elements are 6 percent more productive and 15 percent more creative.
2. Read other books and essays, especially memoirs.
You can find inspiration in many stories, but memoirs grab you on a deep, emotional level. You will read about people who have weathered the changing storms of insecurity, such as divorce or the loss of a loved one. And you will also read about people who have achieved amazing goals. Memories come from real people who remind us that life goes on and usually gets better with time.
3. Be an extrovert for a day.
If you’re feeling uninspired or mentally stuck, indulge yourself in a day of socializing. Talk to more people than usual, ask thoughtful questions, and listen to the answers. The people around us live rich, interesting lives, and their experiences can lead to powerful decisions such as committing to a lucrative goal.
4. Don’t buy. DIY.
In today’s modern world, you can buy anything you need without spending eight hours making it yourself. But sometimes it is a good idea to spend that extra time. It feels good to build your own bookcase or bedside table, and that positive feeling lasts for a long time. When used properly, it can inspire you to create more of the things that you really enjoy.
5. Improve a creative work.
This fun exercise will prepare your brain for direct inspiration. Take any creative work you love, like a play, novel, or movie, and try to rework the weaker parts. For example, if you always thought that a certain dialogue between characters was boring, rewrite it exactly how you want it to be experienced. So you focus on solving a problem, and each solution opens up new possibilities for you.
6. Let your brain be your muse; talk to yourself
Right now there could be a network of ideas trapped in your subconscious. Some are more valuable than others, but in order to mine the shinier gemstones you should talk to yourself. Let the conversation go deep and say everything you think out loud. Speaking to yourself and responding to one thread at a time can open up new revelations about practically anything.
7. Listen to a playlist of varied music.
With this playlist, you can be as experimental as you want. Mix genres, add songs in different languages, and choose artists who aren’t that concerned with traditional song structure. Your main goal here is to create shock value for yourself, and song after song you should feel inspired to think outside the box.
8. Place colorful LED lights in your room.
Proper lighting can be a powerful source of inspiration. Whether they are dark and monochrome or brightly colored, a certain ambience can make a bare room beautiful. Sometimes you need this atmosphere to feel inspired, and LED strip lights can make that happen. These glowing circuit boards are suitable for sticking on walls and are flexible enough to bend corners as well. Tuck them behind desks, beds, or something solid for a colorful glow that washes up on the walls.
9. Mix adventure and exercise by going hiking.
A 2013 study at Frontiers in Neuroscience suggests that exercise can make you more creative. It improves divergent and convergent thinking. This is your ability to find many solutions to a problem (divergent) or just one solution (convergent). Many exercises offer these benefits, but hiking feels more inspiring to many people: it’s a beautiful adventure that never gets old, and that’s exactly what the creative mind needs.
10. Take some fashion risks.
The clothes you wear can affect your mood. So dress according to your own inspiration. You can opt for pieces with geometric patterns, brightly colored prints, or fluffy fabrics that are soft to the touch. But no matter what you want to wear, try to curate an outfit that is color-coordinated and not color-coordinated. This challenges you to find the artistic relationship between different color groups and thus the hidden connections in everyday life.
11. Do more favors for the people you love.
Sometimes you have to get out of your head to make room for inspiration. You can do this by helping others, and luckily, family and friends tend to lean on each other. And who knows what the outcome will be? Helping your mom plant that long-awaited tomato garden may result in your own green space.
12. Play Zelda: Breath of the Wild when you need cooking inspiration.
This action-adventure title motivates players to cook with natural, healthy ingredients. You can find videos on YouTube of people recreating the game’s most popular dishes such as mushroom rice balls and mighty fried bananas. When you have the Nintendo Switch game and can’t decide what to cook tonight, play Breath of the Wild for new ideas.
13. Use Feedly to gain insights into your niche or industry.
Do you need some inspiration for team brainstorming? Set up a Feedly account to gather news in your industry. Reading these articles can get you closer to your niche and you will slowly become an expert in the field. Build an archive of best practices and ideas to present to your team instead of brainstorming.
14. Check out the School of Life YouTube channel.
The School of Life helps people achieve emotional wellbeing through video monologists. The topics are understandable, and this channel does a good job of disrupting meaningless everyday life. When you need inspiration to thrive rather than survive, let The School of Life guide you to true understanding.
15. Ask a tiny person about the best ideas of all time.
Children say the greatest things, and we should probably write some of those things down. When you need inspiration from an unlikely source, find the youngest person in your life and ask them some questions. Their minds still process the world, so they don’t believe in bad ideas when it comes to solving a problem, taking risks, and other things that adults may struggle with.
16. Instead, press Pause to be productive and dream.
Daydreamers have a rich inner world full of wonderful possibilities. When you have some time, take a break from your to-do list and think about the future. Staying grounded in reality is good, but daydreaming helps you imagine your best life, which can be very inspiring.
17. Review your previous work and achievements.
While other people can inspire you, reviewing what you’ve already achieved will produce the same effect. Once you’ve managed successful projects at work, bought your first home, or mastered a challenge most people face, let these successes inspire you towards your next goal. It’s you against you so reach for bigger and better dreams.
18. Embrace the changes in life.
Perfection is out of reach, but you can get pretty close by never giving up. You may need to temporarily change your plans or take a little detour, but every step you take creates progress. Remember, and you will always find the inspiration to keep going.
This article originally appeared in the March / April 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by i_am_adrian__ / Twenty20
Lydia Sweatt is a freelance writer, bookworm and bass guitar enthusiast. When she goes outside, a bike goes with her.