Lacking inspiration is a horrible feeling. When you don’t have that creative spark; that zest for life; that hunger to work on a new project: it can feel terribly deflating. Particularly when you rely on inspiration for your work or studies, creative block can be a real challenge to overcome.
Something I’ve learned in the past year, having been in lockdown with an absence of change (change being one of the best sources of inspiration), is that you can’t rely on an idea to strike at the perfect moment. We may think that ideas arrive at us when we least expect it, and a solution to a problem we’ve been facing arises at the right time, but it’s important to note that inspiration is not luck of the draw. J.K Rowling did not write the Harry Potter series simply because the idea of a school for witchcraft and wizardry drifted across her mind and ended in the incarnation of an entire fantastical universe. Creatives must be problem-solvers; we must work hard at perfecting our ideas and tackle any barriers or obstacles that may pose threat to the next best idea coming into fruition.
The seeking of inspiration is actually a significant step in the creative process, and the more we practice it, and break through those creative blocks, the better at it we become. So how are we to begin when we are feeling utterly uninspired? I’ve put together a list of ways we can immerse ourself in the imaginations of others, of changing sceneries and of shifting perspectives.
- Walk somewhere completely new.
Immersing yourself in entirely new setting always welcomes new ideas to blossom. I find that walking in particular is great for this, as you are able to slow down and really take in your surroundings, without distraction and simply wandering with your thoughts.
2. Use prompts.
This is a tried and tested method of working through a creative block, and for good reason. In reacting to a given prompt, you are provided with that initial idea and from there you can see where your own creativity will take you. And the prompt does not need to provide a solution to the primary creative block you are experiencing: in many ways it can act as a distraction, and a way to practice letting your ideas flow and be diverted elsewhere, which can in turn aid you in pursuing your next best idea a little further. A quick google search will provide you with endless prompts for writing, sketching, sculpting, sewing… or whatever else it might be.
3. Keep a journal and write every insignificant thought you have down.
Journaling has become almost trendy in recent years, and the process of writing down every thought that crosses your mind can benefit you in so many ways, not just creatively. It is a method of emptying and alleviating the mind, so that you can begin to see life a little clearer again. Challenge yourself to sit down somewhere quiet, with no distraction, and simply write every thought, question, dilemma or idea that drifts through your consciousness for a given period of time.
4. Read. A lot.
It is well known that reading works wonders for the mind. Whether it be fiction, a biography, a magazine article or a poem, reading lets you step into the mind of another human being for a chapter or two, where new settings surround us, new people are met and new problems arise around us. Plus, it’s a fantastic mental exercise and a great past time as well.
5. Watch a new film or series.
Much like reading, watching films and series act as a form of escapism, and can be incredibly inspiring for creatives.
6. People watch. Sit in a café and observe everything that is going on.
Find a public spot: in a café, on a park bench, on the tube; and observe all that happens around you. Watch a dog escape from its lead meanwhile taxi driver gets road rage at the car in front, all whilst the rainclouds begin to pass and the sun starts to shine through.
7. Listen to podcasts.
There are so many podcasts to listen to nowadays, and they are wonderful for some background eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation whilst you wash the dishes. Just hearing two people converse over the most silly or serious topics might offer you that different perspective you were after.
8. Challenge yourself to do nothing.
This could be a painful task, but potentially an incredibly useful one. As humans we avoid doing nothing at all costs, which is made easy by having a mobile phone constantly with us at all times as a form of distraction. But try sitting somewhere quiet, and do absolutely nothing; observe every thought that passes your mind and listen to what your body is telling you. In essence, this is practicing mindfulness, and if you find this really challenging perhaps find a guided meditation online to help clear your thoughts and gain a new perspective.
9. Ask someone else for an idea.
This might seem a little strange, but go and ask someone else for what they think about the creative problem you are facing. They might just offer you the simplest and most obvious solution that was staring you in the face all along. But then again, their advice might seem utterly useless. Either way, getting someone else involved in your artistic dilemma can be beneficial even if just to get another viewpoint on a creative project you’re working on.
10. Try out a different creative medium.
If you are a writer, try drawing something. If you are a musician, try building something. Using your creative energy elsewhere is a wonderful way to exercise that imaginative muscle with in you that doesn’t have to directly affect that artistic endeavour you feel so passionately about. It can give you chance to produce new ideas in a different way, and perhaps broaden your perspective.
11. Take a break from the problem, but make sure to come back to it and power through until you find the solution.
Sometimes, all you need is to take a break from the dilemma you are facing, and to reset yourself. However, once you have cleared your mind, it is important to come straight back to your project and not to avoid or forget about the problem. To find that inspiration you are searching for, you must remain disciplined and work through your creative block in every way you can. You may not have that eureka moment you’re dreaming about, and the creative solution you find might not be one hundred percent perfect, however sometimes it’s easy to be extra critical on ourselves, when really the art we produce is incredible, interesting, beautiful and meaningful as it already is.
It’s important to note that these examples of actively seeking inspiration aren’t a guaranteed solution to that problem you want to solve. Persistence is key, and if you don’t try to work for the right idea, you can’t expect it to fall right in front of you. And remember to have faith: one minute you might be completely stuck for anything that even resembles an idea, but not long after you will be generating potential creative projects from nowhere, and your next battle will be trying to fit them all in.