5 Ways to Get Inspired

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by Rasmus Rasmussen on February 22, 2010

Inspiration is a strange and wonderful thing. As creatives, we need a constant stream of it to come up with fresh material. Whether it comes easily or not, the work still has to get done. Simply sitting around and waiting for inspiration to strike is not the way to go about it. Random inspiration is amazing, but is much too unreliable if you need it to make a living off of it.

The standard answer from most creative types when asked about inspiration, is to say that it ‘comes from everyday life’. True as that may be, it also sounds kind of vague. So to be more specific, here are 5 things I do, to help everyday life in its efforts to inspire me.

Walking

My number one inspirational tool is going on walks. As simple as it sounds, I highly recommend it. Plug in your iPod, pack a camera, a notebook and put on your most comfortable shoes. Walking gets the blood pumping in a non-strenuous way, just enough to get the body working, including the brain. I often don’t use the camera or stop to write anything down, but I like having the tools just in case. Other than that, I just let the music mix with the ambient sounds of the world and let it all play out around me. Sooner or later, thoughts start flowing together into ideas.

See Other People

I don’t mean romantically. I mean people whose lives are different from yours. If you work in an office all day, and all your friends work in other offices (or even worse: the same as you), your world will slowly shrink down to fit in a cubicle. If you work in a garage all day, and all your friends do too, the problem is the same. One of the things I am most grateful for in life is that I know or have known all sorts of people, from hardcore junkies to posh millionaires. It adds perspective to the world and teaches you about the things we all have in common.

Be a Dabbler

Working in one medium all the time is limiting, in much same way as only hanging out with people like yourself. You risk burning out, getting jaded or both. I’ve found that dabbling in areas where I am not necessarily very good, can be a way to reset my way of thinking. I often return to my main work (photography and writing) with a fresh approach. The overlap between different creative disciplines becomes clearer and something you can tap into later.

Read Fiction

Ever heard this one? “I only read work related books, because I don’t have time for fiction.” Often followed up by a wish for more ‘free time’. Like with everything else taking longer than half an hour, you have to prioritize reading. Textbooks, magazines and e-mails just can’t compete with a good novel. When reading, your imagination is constantly working to fill in the gaps, conjuring up images, sounds and even emotion to go with the words. And it carries you away to a place removed from your daily stress. In other words, you are relaxing and exercising your imagination at the same time.

Scare Yourself

Do one thing which scares you every day. Even if only in some small way. We all have a million little worries and fears, and by confronting just one of those consciously and with effort, you move forward as a person. It can be as trivial as trying a new hairstyle or giving a presentation — whatever makes you a little nervous. Jumping out of airplanes, climbing mountains and white water rafting are all cool, but we can’t all do those things every single day. So think small. I have found that if I push myself to confront one scary thing, I get a rush of energy that drives me to keep going.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

suemack February 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

Thanks Ras, this is what I needed.

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Doug February 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Those are all great tips! Even when you were sitting across the room typing this post, I was inspired by you.

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Rasmus Rasmussen February 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Such is life at the West Seattle Art Factory™ ;)

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Tyler Olson March 5, 2010 at 12:47 am

Nice post.

I find too, that some of my best ‘thinking time’ comes when I am exercising. I am not sure if this is totally the same as ‘getting inspired’ but it both things are cleaning out the brain which I suppose in a way is the whole point.

I think the thing I like about exercising (or walking) is that I are not ‘supposed’ to think necessarily, I am just supposed to exercise. This freedom frees up the mind to think what it wants to think instead of being forced to think what I think it should think. Which makes for good thinking.

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Ethan March 18, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Fantastic post. I’m going to see if I can hit all five of these tomorrow.

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Jenipher July 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I enjoyed this!! And agree with all of the above!

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Holli July 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm

My best time for inspiration…shower time. I’m by myself with the comfort of warm water and since the shower glass is all steamed up, no one can see my lips are moving when I talk to myself.

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Rasmus Rasmussen July 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Holli – I get many of my ideas in those kinds of moments too, whether I’m doing the dishes, showering or waiting for the bus. A break from Life where there’s room for thought is always a good thing.

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Susan Straub-Martin August 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

One of the ways, I get myself unstuck is a nap. Sometimes you are working and working to get something to come or work out. A nap like the walk relax you and your mind and things just seem to work themselves out.

I will find some of my best ideas at 3 or 4 in the morning. So having a pen and pad by your bed will make sure you don’t forget when you wake up later.

Relax.

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