Finding Inspiration

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.” --- Steve Jobs

Creating art can be tough. Even now, I’m sitting on my back porch trying to find inspiration for this article.

A lack of inspiration is one of the hardest things a creative has to deal with, but it’s something that every creative has to face.

Waiting for creative inspiration to strike is a bad idea. Inspiration is all around us, and all we need to do is alter our perspective to see it.

I know I’ve struggled with finding inspiration many times, and so have other artist. Here are a few techniques that I’ve used to find inspiration for my art. I’ve also tried just sitting around and waiting for inspiration to hit, and believe me, these are much more helpful!

Stream-of-consciousness writing

We are so bombarded with noise from countless sources at every moment of the day that it’s rare for us to actually listen to our thoughts. Our thoughts can tell us a lot about what’s going on in the back of our minds.

Grab a pen and notebook, and write down your thoughts as they pop into your head. No matter how dull or meaningless they may seem, write them down!

When I do this, I even write down how I’m thinking of stopping to take a sip of my coffee, because that is a thought running through my head.

Whereas most of what you write will be meaningless, this practice gives you a glimpse into your subconscious mind. I’ve found that this is the number one source of inspiration for me.

Memories

Similar to stream-of-consciousness writing, this involves looking inward for inspiration. Do you want to create a piece of art that invokes certain emotions? Define what those emotions are, and find memories where you felt those same emotions.

What were you doing? Who were you with? Why did you feel these emotions? All of these are inspiration for your art.

Set aside time to create

The best way to find inspiration is by actually practicing your art! But it’s so easy for us to become distracted when we don’t have any inspiration, so it’s important to have time set aside to be creative.

In the office, this is especially important. Scheduling creative brainstorming sessions for your employees can open up creative pathways in their minds for future innovation.

This could be bringing in a random object --- an empty water bottle, or a cup of coffee --- and asking them to turn it into something relating to their business.

Just like how athletes set aside time each day to train, so to should creative set aside time each day to train their brains for creativity.

Question the norm

In your chosen artistic muse, is there anything that everyone does and is taken for granted as something that has to be done? That’s a dumb question, because the answer is obviously yes, no matter what your muse is!

Identifying these norms and questioning how they can be different can lead to new inspiration.

In magic, one of these norms is to perform classic tricks. If you’ve ever seen a magic show, you know which ones I’m talking about.

These tricks include “The Linking Rings,” “The Cups and Balls,” and “Cut and Restored Rope.” Even if you don’t know the names of magic tricks, you probably have a good picture of these three.

They’re amazing tricks! There’s a reason why magicians have been performing “The Cups and Balls” for thousands of years. But when everyone performs the same tricks, no one stands out.

In this case, I would try to determine why these tricks are so good, and how I can take those principles and use different props.

This, in the eyes of non-magicians, will create a brand new trick.

Go out into the world

Too often people get stuck in their own heads. This is especially bad for creatives because we only have so much inspiration waiting for us between our ears.

Going out into the world will open up the doors for a wealth of creative inspiration that we couldn’t have imagined by sitting at our desks.

Howard Schultz found inspiration for Starbucks when he traveled to Italy and saw how the Italians romanticized the coffee experience in their coffee bars.

He witnessed how these coffee bars weren’t just a place to get a morning cup before work; they were a place to stop and relax between work and home. He took that feeling and brought it back to Starbucks, and the rest is history.

Recently, I’ve been working on a magic act that wouldn’t have been possible if I never left my hometown.

You see, I’m an avid hiker and love being in the woods and on a mountain. There’s something I feel when I’m climbing a mountain that I just don’t feel anywhere else.

One day, as I was somewhere in the woods of New Hampshire, I focused on this feeling and decided to create a magic act around it.

So I began writing down what this feeling was and describing my hikes. This is what I wanted to center a magic act around, but I just need to figure out what it was.

I realized that, with hiking gear such as a trail hat, bandanas, and hiking polls, I could perform classic feats of magic that would otherwise look cheesy (think canes, top hats, and handkerchiefs that look like they came from a magic shop; basically, what every stereotypical magician looks like).

Using real hiking gear and inspired by this mysterious feeling, I can perform the classics of magic that I always loved but never performed because they felt too cheesy.

If I had just stayed home and watched Netflix, I would have never found this inspiration.

Conclusion

Stream-of-consciousness writing, memories, setting time aside, questioning the norm, and going out into the world; these five things have been much more effective for me than just waiting for inspiration to strike.

Try one of these out today, or two. You’ll be surprised what inspiration you find that has been staring you in the face for years.

Ryan Lally