Inspiration is a finicky creature; always there when you don’t need it, but as soon as you do it cannot be found. As someone who’s livelihood depends on being creative and tapping into my inspirational reservoirs very quickly when I need them, I’d like to share with you a few tricks to jump-starting your own creative engine so that you will be able to make greater use of it in the future.
- Read about knitting. It doesn’t have to be knitting, but reading about a topic that you are completely unfamiliar with can really get the right side of your brain working. You will learn new vocabulary and skills and be introduced to a whole new subculture that you may not have even known existed, all of which helps your brain make new connections that didn’t exist before, rounding out your world view and increasing the chances that you will make some new, valuable, topical connection you can use with whatever it is you are currently doing.
- Snap some photos. For one year, I carried a camera with my absolutely everywhere I went. School, work, dates, even the bathroom (though I didn’t take it in the shower…I left it on the sink). The experiment was a really eye-opening experience because when you walk through life with a camera, you are constantly on the lookout for the perfect composition. You are gazing at the familiar through a completely different lens (pun intended), and all of a sudden the boring becomes exciting and the ugly becomes beautiful.
- StumbleUpon something new. One of the better free online services out there is StumbleUpon, which will display a random web page with the click of a button. If you create an account with SU, you are able to go through and tell it all about your interests, which it will use to customize content. I suggest that you add a handful of random non-interests in addition to your legitimate ones so as to expose yourself to information outside of your normal realm of expertise. Once you’re in, click that Stumble! button over and over for some nice, juicy external stimuli. Delicious.
- Go to the library. I mean the physical library. The one that’s kept in a building, not a server. Something that is unfortunately lacking in our online lifestyle’s is an easy way to be exposed to ideas other than our own. We get our RSS feeds from websites we like, emails from people we know, visit websites that we’ve heard about from one of the latter, and basically keep ourselves in a bubble of non-existential-conflict and mind-candy. At the library, however, you can walk by shelves upon shelves of unfiltered, semi-organized reading materials (and at most libraries, viewing and listening materials as well) that may or may not be what you’re used to. Eureka! Snag something at random and read the first couple pages. If it doesn’t grip you, move down a few rows and do the same. You’ll find some really great ideas this way that you definitely would not have been exposed to otherwise.
- Write a haiku. Really, it doesn’t have to be a haiku…just some kind of creative writing. Poetry is a nice first choice, however, because it is a lot more subjective and less girdled by grammatical rules than short fiction or an epic fantasy novel. Write a poem about anything. Write it about your stapler. Or your shoes. Write a poem to your significant other or the weather or an imaginary pet. It doesn’t really matter what you write it about, so long as you are able to really let loose and go crazy with it, rather than overthinking and overplanning. It can rhyme, but it doesn’t have to (though generally it’s a bit more fun to try). Try handwriting it, too, as that seems to get a person more engrossed than typing (and it exercises a possibly-neglected skill set).
- Call an old friend. Now, I don’t mean call someone who is older than you (though that may be the case in certain circumstances). What I really mean is to call someone up from your past that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Still have your best friend from college’s number? I wonder what she’s up to! Let’s find out! Have a name and number in your phone that you can’t place? Give them a call and relive that random weekend 3 years ago where you met the guy with the whatever at the place. This serves a double-purpose of stirring up nostalgia, as well as helping you get closure, rekindle an old friendship, and/or just being an interesting thing to do. I mean, really, why don’t people do this more often?
- Take a trip. This tip may not seem as immediate and easy as the others, but you might be surprised by how quickly you can set up a trip, get packed and be out the door. Try this: go to JetBlue, CheapFlights, TravelZoo or whatever discount plane ticket service you prefer and look for their last-minute deals (they all have them, though you may have to click around to find the right section). The trick here is to keep yourself from building up a trip as a monumental occasion that you have to plan months in advance for. If you aren’t able to fly somewhere because of financial or time constraints, hop in the car and drive a half-hour to someplace you’ve never been. Or ride your bike. Or walk. Whatever you have to do, get yourself into a novel environment posthaste. This will force you to take a look at the world from a different perspective (that of someone who is new to an area, rather than someone for which there are no surprises). It can also be a nice mini-vacation that you can use to clear your head and relax some of your tension, which is never good to have when you’re trying to be inspired.
What do you do to become inspired?
Colin Wright is a serial entrepreneur and author who moves to a new country every 4 months based on the votes of his readers at Exile Lifestyle. He is a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.