5 tips to cultivate a habit around finding inspiration
I love feeling inspired. I guess everyone does. When I have an idea or a flood of ideas and I scribble them down, sketch them out, and my mind expands on them and brings me to all kinds of incredible places, I can sit and write or paint for ages.
Often, however, this muse is nowhere to be found. I feel flat, low on energy and just want to lay on the couch and listen to the latest crime junkie episode. Sometimes I give in and do just that, but mostly, I try finding inspiration with what has worked for me in the past to get into the groove of creating.
If I can, I go out for a little walk in nature. We’re surrounded by the Costa Vicentina national park with stunning hills, sand dunes and red-coloured cliffs along the coastline. It’s so lovely in spring when everything is lush and green, and flowers are blooming everywhere.
I love going for a walk (or a morning run) from the village to the cliffs to look at the waves crash against the rocks beneath me. I always search for the little details, from wind-swept bushes to the shadows of the rocks scattered at the bottom of the ocean. I also love walking along the beach and feel the fresh Atlantic breeze while collecting colourful stones that got washed up. Note to self: You already have way too many rocks in the house, just leave them on the beach :)
It doesn’t really matter if you live in a little village near the ocean or if you’re in a city. All you need is a bit of nature. Some trees, maybe some flowers, bushes, a stretch of grass to sit down on and enjoy the sun if it’s out. When you close your eyes, listen to the birds or other insects.
I think nature is a big source of inspiration for many writers and artists, but even if you don’t feel more inspired after your little outing, you’re probably a tiny bit more relaxed after moving around in the fresh air.
The beautiful coastline of the Costa Vicentina national park
Books are another go-to source when I’m low in inspiration. Reading a few lines of a poem often helps me get my creative juices flowing, but I also love thumbing through a picture and illustration-heavy book. A nice big coffee table book.
Two of my favourites at the moment are Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval (there’s an Instagram account with the same name) and an illustrated book about Frida Kahlo’s life by Maria Hesse. Do you have any favourite books you love to pick up again and again? Let me know what they are!
If you don’t have any books at hand, you could look around online to find inspiration, like these photo series depicting abandoned places or intriguing landscapes or anything that sparks your interest.
I have a notebook on my nightstand, another one in the drawer of my desk, and a few completely full ones stashed in our bookshelf. I’ve gotten into the habit of journaling a few years ago, and although I’m not religiously doing it, I like jotting down my thoughts whenever I’m thinking through a problem.
I love pulling out the good old journal when I return from my morning run to write down ideas that could be worth exploring. Some of them I sketch out, some I write down. I just have to make sure I can decipher my scribbles when I come back to them, which can be hard sometimes :)
For journaling, it’s often not even necessary to go back and read what you’ve written, especially when you’re just letting out whatever is on your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense. But if you keep writing, there might be an idea that could develop into something interesting. Just sit down and start, you’ll be surprised.
As an alternative, you could start an art journal, where you write, draw, doodle, glue things in that bring you joy and make you come back to it when you’re looking for some inspiration. I have a folder filled with art cards, mini art prints and other lovely scraps I love browsing through.
Another huge fountain of inspiration for me is travelling (pre-Covid that is). I love exploring new places, wandering through the streets of a city I’m visiting or hiking up a mountain to take in an incredible view. At the moment I’m mostly looking through old pictures of past adventures to summon my muse.
Changing your environment is almost always going to trigger some inspiration. When you’re somewhere new you’re likely more observant, paying closer attention to new views and smells. When you find a moment of peace, take out your notebook or sketchbook and see what happens.
It’s hard to travel anywhere at the moment, but you don’t have to board a plane to discover something new and awaken your muse. Visit a neighbouring town or just walk a different route than usual to your local supermarket.
Even trips to the market could be great for finding inspiration. I love looking at fresh fruit in all colours, all assorted and presented in an appealing way. Tourists weaving through the stalls, it almost feels like a vacation. If you add eating out at a new restaurant or discovering a new shop, you’ve got yourself a staycation.
Wading through the mud in Cocora Valley, Colombia, on our way to see hummingbirds and huge wax palms
A potential source of inspiration that should definitely not be underestimated. Having a conversation with friends, be it in person or over zoom, a neighbour, or just someone asking you for directions, can spark some inspiration.
Maybe it’s something they’re wearing, their interesting accent or a problem they’re complaining about. If you pay attention, you might discover some gems that are worth exploring further once you’re back in your workspace.
A conversation can sometimes reveal a different point of view, and that will most certainly shake things up and enrich any projects you’re working on.
Last but not least, here’s another short article with ideas for finding inspiration and breaking through a creative block.
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