1. Know that ideas come from all sorts of places. You might go on Pinterest to get inspired for your next week’s financial column, only to end up looking at pictures of Autumn/Winter fashion trends. For hours. And feeling guilty. However, maybe your digression might actually help you. Maybe you could write about the financial report of a particular fashion brand, and what it says about the industry as a whole.
2. Some ideas really are dead. So, you’re stuck working on a really great idea you had weeks ago. You are following through, but nothing is coming through. Instead of fighting it, give it a rest. Even a half-hour diversion can refresh you to go at it with greater enthusiasm.
3. Noel Coward said, “Work is more fun than fun.” Just because you’re on holiday, or simply de-stressing by yourself in the bath, doesn’t mean your brain’s on holiday too. If you associate work with stress and responsibility, and fun with relaxation and lack of responsibility, you won’t get the best of either. If your mind’s open to it, you can get ideas everywhere. Something a friend said. How your daughter looked when she was playing with toy clay. A piece of music you heard at a party. If you let the mind stay connected, then the light bulb can turn on at the most unexpected moments. It is your job to make notes when that happens. Always.
4. Try something new. Doesn’t have to be sky-diving or bungee jumping or whatever the internet says you should do to feel alive. Even something as simple as picking up a book in a genre you don’t read, going to watch a play instead of a movie, watching a sport on television that you never have before, can get you to think differently. You may not learn anything new, might never watch a play again, but just the novelty of it all would have made it gently challenging, potentially providing you with inspiration. Even if that means writing on why you can never get interested in golf.
5. Try something different. It is somewhat passive to be only experiencing something new. However, you learn, and feel alive, by doing. I prefer something project-based, i.e. doing by learning, instead of lectures and reading. Even the simplest of things can make you more creative, as long as you do something active. Take that camera that has been lying around since your last holiday and use it to take pictures that are a little more challenging than camera-phone selfies. Describe the people sitting in the dentist’s waiting room with you as a ‘note’ on your phone. I’m writing a ‘how to’ here, because I am bored of writing my usual essays. It can’t be too easy, but even the slightest challenge can get your brain to start working again, instead of being stuck in a rut.
6. Have fun. But, not too much. I’ve been interspersing some very dull work with David Bowie albums. Just a single track, for four minutes, to break the monotony and drowsiness, to get back to it again. If I actually play through the entire 40 minutes of the album, there’s my concentration gone for the day. But, one track is all I need to feel human. And it stays within control, which is better than going off on a tangent and gossiping with mates, and let that dominate my already dulling work.
7. De-clutter. Sometimes, you need to get rid of the old, to let the new in. Sometimes, you might even find something new in the old. Either way, any de-cluttering session is a goldmine of inspiration. You don’t have to go at it with dusters and soap. I do a slow version of it, an intellectual/emotional de-cluttering, where anything from an old box to a book I forgot I had, can spring ideas in my head. It takes time, but it is worth it. Ever wonder why creative people get most of their ideas from things around them?
8. Look at the old stuff you made. Chances are, you aren’t feeling good about what you are making. I cringe at 90% of my writing that I’ve let out into the world. But, even looking back on them, remembering how each piece was made, or even finding a decent, not-completely-bad sentence, reminds me that I can do this. It can even inspire me to follow up on that, maybe write a sort-of sequel, or completely dismantle an idea I no longer believe in. Either way, you can find inspiration even in things you made. Might sound egotistical, but who else is going to know better how those things came to be, and what they were meant for?
10. An idea comes when you least expect it. They say that about love too, though it certainly is true in this case. You might look at a zillion prompts, quotes etc., and still feel nothing. Nothing that makes you want to put pen to paper, plie to hardwood floor, hammer to new block of wood. And then, it suddenly comes. You daydream as you make a cup of tea, and suddenly you know what the next dance step should be. You’ve already fallen half-asleep, and suddenly you know what your character does next. Be active in doing things, but don’t go hunting for ideas. Unfortunately, the human brain just doesn’t work like that.
How do you get inspired?