Inspiration doesn’t usually come like lightning. For inspitation to hit you, you have to find yourself in the right circumstances — and in the process of creating. So create whatever. A lot is going to be garbage, but if you don’t create the bad, you’ll never create the good. Even the most fantastic artists have wastepaper baskets full of ideas.
Now, I’ve never been a believer in the starving artist or that you have to be in real miserable shape to create something of value, but there are certainly situations that lend themselves best to the creative process. In fact, great ideas are akin to ghosts: they’re somewhat formed and floating around you, but it takes a certain state of mind to be able to see them. Getting into that mentality isn’t always easy, so finding places that shake up your emotions and shift your perspective can make a world of difference. Whether it’s a place for self-reflection, a place of mental limbo, or a place to swim in a world of thoughts, a few ideas:
Hotels are a sort of limbo. They allow for some serious brooding because they’re your home in the sense that they’re where you will sleep, eat, watch TV, and hang your clothes — but they are still foreign, a place where you’ll never feel entirely comfortable or at ease. This kind of internal disquietude of feeling at once at home and far away seems to do an amazing job inspiring new thoughts, perspectives and reflections.
2. Anywhere that’s not in front of a computer screen
If it means lots of transcribing from your notebook to a Word doc, then so be it. Nothing takes you out of the creative process quite like the buzz of Twitter notifications or the fatigue that only hours staring at a bright computer monitor can bring.
3. The Mirror
Take a bit longer to look in the mirror tomorrow morning. Reflect on who you’ve become and who you want to be. Think of your own life as a journey, as a fascinating story worth telling, and find inspiration in your own experiences.
4. Sleepless nights
The mid-dream state always inspires great ideas. You’re less critical of yourself, less discerning about what you’re writing down, and you can therefore just let the ideas flow. Oftentimes, the next morning you’ll be doing lots crossing out and headshaking over silly ideas you had thought were genius; but, a few gems tend to pop up making it all worthwhile.
5. Conversations with close friends
So many of my own ideas come to life when I simply talk about them. A knowledgable friend will be able to add new facets and points of view to your idea, and, before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to a fully formed idea. Also, don’t underestimate the inspirating value of overheard conversations. It’s one of my favorite reasons to read, write, or relax in a café. Sometimes I’ll write down the dialogue verbatim. There’s no better way to write realistic sounding dialogue than by writing, you know, real dialogue.
6. Seeking out loneliness, discomfort, and awkwardness
The key is to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether that means going to a party where you don’t know many people or flying off to Thailand by yourself, sometimes you just need to lose yourself, feel new things, and get out of your usual day-to-day life.
7. Planes and trains
Often it’s hard to be creative because you feel like spending time to think or outline would be an unproductive, unworthy use of your time. When you’re traveling though, you feel like you’re getting something done because you’re headed somewhere so whatever you decide to do to pass the time doesn’t much matter — with so few distractions or things to do, this is a fantastic time to start creating something. Plus, what’s more inspiring than clouds out your window in a plane or zipping through a picturesque countryside in a train?
Everyone has a story. Imagine what someone else’s life is like. The idea is to get out of your own head — to expand your perspective, to see life from another’s point of view.
Wherever you are — in the middle of a historic city, out in nature, or stuck in suburbia that extends for miles around — walks can be the most peaceful part of your day. Avoid distractions, discover new areas, and bounce ideas around in your head. When you go to sit down and create, your ideas will have already begun to take form.
10. Bookstores and libraries
Perhaps the best way to get inspiration is to go swim in a world of ideas. Reading — even merely being surrounded by literature — is a fast way to find inspiration. An interesting strategy is to try and mirror the tone of your favorite writers which can open you up to thinking about your own writing voice in a different way. For non-writing creative-types, perhaps try exploring your own worlds like art galleries or museums.
11. In Your Own Thoughts
Keep a journal. Write for yourself with the freedom of knowing that no one will ever see it. Look for recurrent themes and images because these are the things you’re clearly interested in. Then tell these stories in your art. Reveal even the parts you don’t like about yourself for this is what it means to be a creative — be open, be vulnerable. In a letter to his daughter who was trying her hand at fiction writing, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly… literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.”