We’ve all been there. You have a strong drive and desire to create something, but when you sit down to work on it, the inspiration just won’t come. It’s like trying to drive a car without gas. It can be a frustrating, maddening, and seemingly hopeless experience.
But it’s not hopeless. Far from it.
When you get stuck in a creative rut, here are some of my personal go-to remedies that always help me rekindle the fire and get cozy with that sometimes stubborn bitch we call Inspiration.
Tips on How to Get Inspired
Stimulate your imagination
One of my favorite ways to kick my inspiration into overdrive is to stimulate it things I find, well, inspiring. I love looking through websites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and We Heart It for fresh ideas. Sometimes, completely abstract things will give me a brand new way of looking at a project I’m working on or will spark an idea for a new one. I also love to refer back to the content I’ve already curated on mood boards for my projects to get the juices flowing again and to be reminded what inspired me in the first place.
Reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, listening to music, or looking up some of my favorite clips on YouTube helps, too. Seek out something in the vain of whatever it is you want to be working on to get your mind in that zone. If you’re in the mood to write a contemporary romance, for example, look up clips of some of your favorites in that genre. Also, check out stuff that you haven’t seen/read yet. Through the process of discovery, you’ll often stumble upon fresh inspiration.
Pay attention to the things that seem to always seem to light a fire in you and get your gears turning. Cultivate an intimate knowledge of them so you can easily go to them when your well is running dry, while also consistently searching for new inspiration and perspectives to keep things fresh.
Let someone else inspire you
Watching another artist express their creativity can be very inspiring. See if you can find some live music playing near you, for example, and let yourself get swept up in the musician’s passion. If you have any friends who are creative, ask them about their projects and see if they’ll share them with you. If you can’t find anyone locally, seek out artists on social media and YouTube to watch their raw process. Feeling or witnessing the creative energy of someone else can fuel your own, even if it’s a different art form.
Make your atmosphere special
Your surroundings have a big impact on how you feel. They affect your mood, sense of focus, and even your physical well-being. If you are trying to get inspired but keep finding yourself derailed, look to your atmosphere. Is there a lot of clutter? Do you dislike the decor or even just feel pretty neutral about it?
Or do you look around and absolutely love what you see so much that you look forward to spending time in that space?
If it’s not the latter, then it’s time to rethink your workspace (and living space, especially if they’re one in the same). You don’t have to spend a lot of money to improve it. First, make sure the space is organized and clutter-free. While some people can tune out a mess around them and even thrive in the madness, others get bogged down by it. A messy desk can translate to a messy, unfocused mind.
Next, bring in personal touches that make you happy. Incorporate the colors you love. Put out art, photography, and quotes that speak to you (you can print them up on your home printer or have them printed at a place like Staples for the cost of spare change). Make the space comfortable. I love soft textures like faux fur that add a sense of coziness and luxury. Lighting also plays a big factor. String some inexpensive Christmas lights around the room and light a candle. You’ll be amazed by the difference in how it makes you feel.
Ashlina Kaposta of The Decorista (one of my favorite blogs) wrote a fantastic book called Blissful Living, which is all about creating a home that supports your dream life and how you want to feel. I highly recommend it.
Try a new setting
Even if you love your personal space, it’s natural to need a change of pace to stimulate your brain. I like to switch things up by writing in places like Starbucks or a hotel. Sometimes, I don’t even go that far. Instead of writing in my office, I’ll move out to the dining room or patio if I’m feeling restless. Writing outdoors definitely reinvigorates me. Providing this break in your routine can be just enough of a change to get your creative juices flowing and give you a new perspective.
Do something physical or creative (other than what you’re trying to do)
Trying to force inspiration can be the very thing that pushes it away from your grasp. Inspiration often likes to strike when we’re busy doing something else. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas when I was driving or taking a shower. So, willfully distract yourself with something physical and see what your subconscious manages to cook up in the meantime. Go for a walk, cook a meal, meet up with a friend for coffee, go dancing (even if it’s just around your living room), workout, whatever you feel like doing.
Another idea is to do something creative in a different form. As a writer, I like doing something visually artistic like photography or painting for a change of pace. It will challenge your creativity in a different way and could spark some interesting ideas for your other work.
Don’t fight what you’re being called toward
Inspiration is a mysterious force that has a mind of its own. Sometimes, you may be trying to work on one project but another one is nagging you mercilessly. If you try fighting it off and find that it’s only becoming more obstinate, stop. Give into it. Follow your muse and do whatever it is that you’re being called to do. In the instances where I’ve let it lead me where it wanted to go, I got some of my best work from it. Trust the magic.
Relieve the pressure
Our mind can be our greatest enemy. It loves to sabotage our acts of creation with toxic things like fear, self-doubt, and comparison. To access true inspiration, relieve the pressure of creating something that will impress people and bring you monetary success, and bring your focus back to what matters. Remind yourself that its purpose is to bring you joy, and possibly bring others some joy, too. But mostly, it’s for you. Not for accolades, not for money, not for fame – focus on the wonderful way the act of creating makes you feel, not what you hope the result of it will.
And if you are creating something for a purpose bigger than yourself, such as to help people through a dark time, focus on the good you will do for those people. Stay close to your purpose. As soon as you feel yourself getting wrapped up in whether or not the work you are doing is any good, shift your focus back to the reason you want to do it in the first place, and create from that energy.
Close out all distractions
Distractions are the devil when it comes to getting inspired and into a workflow. Sometimes, our brain will seek out any and all possible distractions just to avoid any actual work. Everything becomes amplified. Cut it off at the pass by closing out those distractions. Go somewhere quiet, close the door, put a pair of headphones on, and put your phone on silent (and perhaps even far enough away that you can’t easily reach for it to scroll through social media). Let people know you’re unavailable so you won’t be interrupted. Protect that time as though it were sacred, because it is.
Just push through
When nothing else works, when inspiration is being its most obstinate and elusive, then all that’s left is to persevere. Sometimes, you just have to put your head down and push through it. Just start. Even if it’s painful, even if the work is terrible, do it anyway. Think of it like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the easier it becomes. The truth is, you don’t need inspiration to create something great. It’s not a necessary component. In fact, most of the time it won’t be there until you actually start writing. Sticking your nose to the grind and simply creating can be one of the most effective ways to become inspired.