Is there anything more frustrating than showing up to do the work but feeling paralysed by a lack of inspiration? Where to find inspiration for work when forcing it just isn’t working?
Creativity is essential for us creative professionals. Without it, how can we create? How to get inspired when there’s nothing inspiring us?
Most of the time I can force myself to start. In the words of Nike, just effing do it.
But what about when creativity is playing coy and being elusive?
When deadlines loom and the white screen of paralysis screams failure, we need some tricks in our bag to help us find inspiration.
I’m always an advocate for finding what works best for you. What helps me refill my creative well so I can draw inspiration when I need it might not work so well for you.
I don’t believe there’s only activity or place where you can find inspiration. But here are my tips for finding enough inspiration to get the work done.
Go for a walk, run, ride, swim or jazzercise—whatever physical activity you prefer that gets your blood pumping.
For me it’s walking in fresh air. None of that treadmill rubbish. It’s part of my daily routine.
Studies prove how exercise gives you an instant creativity boost that continues even once you sit back down at your desk. So, if you’re looking for inspiration, it might be time to lace up your sneakers or don a sparkly leotard and get your blood flowing.
Listen to a podcast by someone you admire
I usually listen to my favourite podcasts while I’m out roaming the streets around my neighbourhood. Sometimes the podcaster will say something that resonates and aligns with what I’ve been thinking about lately.
And this can spark a chain reaction of small creative connections, leading to renewed enthusiasm and way forward.
Two of my favourite podcasts for creatives are:
Read a book
But make it a fiction one. A business book or non-fiction book is likely to be too cognitively draining, but a fictional work will let you escape into another world for a while.
It’s nice to enjoy words without having to push them out yourself when you’re feeling inspiration-constipated.
Have a shower
Or a bath.
There’s something about having water over your body in a confined space with nothing to do but wash that leads me to have the most thrilling conversations with myself.
All those arguments I win. I amaze myself with how petty I can be.
But among the chatter and harsh words bantered in my brain, there’s the occasional gem of a thought that solves my creative problem.
Do some chores
How can I possibly expect myself to feel creatively inspired when my kitchen sink needing Jiffing?
The more mundane the chores the better. But don’t opt for the sort-out-the-plastic-containers kind of chore—cos we all know that leads to chronic frustration when you can never find the matching lids.
Bathroom scum, stovetop grease, fuzzy organic things in the fridge—unleash your angst and let your mind wander.
Tackle boring admin tasks
Sometimes I feel so uninspired to write that working on a spreadsheet or arranging my stationery drawer feels much more enticing. How can I possibly focus on my work while my accounts need reconciling and pens need aligning?
While working on a mundane task, your subconscious mind will do the heavy lifting in the background and who knows? Maybe in the depths of Xero or spreadsheet cell, you’ll find starting feeling inspired and motivated to do the work.
Tasks like bookkeeping or filing are perfect for when you’re feeling uninspired. On the one hand, you’re doing something productive that needs to be done anyway, and on the other, like when doing household chores, you’re giving your brain a chance to ponder your creative conundrum.
Set a timer
A blank screen is no match for my timer.
Whether it’s a timer to capture the time I spend working on a project or a Pomodoro timer set for 25 minutes of focused work, there’s something almost magical about starting the timer that propels me into action. The simple act of hitting start immediately puts me into work mode.
When it comes to project work, knowing that someone is paying me for that time also forces me into action, even if it’s brainstorming a blog outline or research tasks.
Journal it out
Writing for yourself, not for clients, and without expectation of publication or sharing your words with anyone takes the pressure off feeling like you need to produce something polished.
Journalling for 20 or 30 minutes, pen on paper, can help you get to the root of your reluctance to get the work done. It can force your critical thinking brain to switch off, shut your inner editor up, creating space for creativity.
I’m often surprised where my journalling takes me and sometimes it leads to the breakthrough I need.
Chat with your business besties
Whether it’s in a Facebook group, during a video or instant message chat, I find there’s nothing like having a cathartic whinge, rant or whine to let it out and move me toward action.
Sometimes the simple act of typing out my whinge helps me see the solution. And my business besties can help me drill down into the reasons why I feel so uninspired or give me the kick up the bum I need. It’s a bit like the benefits you get from journalling.
I love a good whinge. Who doesn’t? If you can find people who tolerate your whinges, know you so well they know when to give you a hug or tell you to stop being a brat, keep those people close.
Whether it’s writing for myself or tackling a copywriting project, there’s nothing quite like a blinking cursor on a white screen to zap the dregs of any remaining inspiration.
But rather than expect myself to come up with a polished final draft from the first word I type, I do a massive word vomit. I brainstorm and jot down half-finished ideas, things I want to cover, and arrange it into some kind of structure.
While you may not be able to always find the motivation to write polished copy, you could talk yourself into tapping out some ideas to get the creativity flowing. It’s a bit like putting on your sneakers to convince yourself you’re only going for a walk around the block. 5km later…
The Better Blogging Template
When blogging, I use my blogging template, which takes me through the blog outline process. It helps me capture ideas and structure my thoughts before I start writing.
You can get a copy of this template for free, including the outline process, when you sign up for The Smarter Writer newsletter.
Don’t start at the start
If the cursor blinks at you like it’s communicating the word ‘failure’ over and over, like some kind of evil cursor Morse code, I remember I don’t have to start at the start. I don’t have to write the all-important introduction first. I skip it. Instead, I start randomly. If I’ve done my outline, I choose one sub-heading I can expand on and write about that thing.
Can you find some random place to start?
Change your environment
While the ergonomics of working at the kitchen bench or dining table are not great, the sore shoulders make up for the productivity boost I experience when I take my laptop away from my usual desk environment.
While external places like cafes and libraries are out for me right with COVID-19 restrictions, the simple act of moving away from my home office and into another room in my house is enough to spark some freshness.
Try guided meditation for creative inspiration
For some of us creatives, the forced act of relaxing, focusing on our breathing and allowing our mind to wander can be the key to tapping into our creative inspiration reserves.
The more my mind rebels against the idea of mediation, the more I reckon I need to do it.
Here’s a short, 7-minute guided mediation that will help you find that elusive creative inspiration and hopefully reset.
Take time off
And by this I don’t mean a Netflix and couch binge for the afternoon. I mean schedule a proper break. A holiday. A staycation.
When none of my usual tricks work, I know I’m on the fast track to burnout, which is not helpful to anyone—my family relying on my income, my clients and colleagues relying on my work. And also not helpful to me.
It’s time for a decent break. And that includes a break from ALL work. If I go away, I leave my laptop behind. That’s the only way I can break my work habit.
If you can take a week or two off, even a weekend or long weekend away can be enough to reset, refill and return to the blinking cursor feeling inspired and motivated.
How do you find creative inspiration?
Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to know where you find inspiration and if it’s different to me.