You know the feeling. You’ve been sitting at your computer for an hour. You’ve already pounded back 2 cups of coffee (or maybe 2 glasses of wine… that’s ok, I won’t judge), and you’re still waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Waiting for inspiration to strike.
Maybe you’re working on a client proposal. Maybe you’re re-doing your marketing package. Maybe you’re designing invitations for a client. Regardless of what you’re trying to do, it’s just not happening. Inspiration has left the building, people.
So what now? Oh. Well of course: Pinterest.
Let me be clear – I love Pinterest. I also hate Pinterest. Oh, how I love to hate Pinterest. It is at once a source of beauty and inspiration and a painful (and not-so-subtle) suggestion that I’m “not good enough”. (Oh, you mean I’m supposed to hand-carve my kids’ lunch fruit into animal shapes? Oh. I didn’t realize.) I sometimes refer to Pinterest as the place where I keep my “some day” thoughts. Some day, I’ll read this post on blogging. Some day, I’ll try making that recipe. Some day, I’ll attempt to design my kitchen entirely with re-usable palettes. You know, “some day”.
So yes, Pinterest gives us something to aspire to (or procrastinate about). It also has another effect on us: it makes us lazy. Especially when we need to flex our creative muscles.
Which brings me back to your current predicament: waiting for inspiration to strike. Here’s what worries me. We’ve become so accustomed to using Pinterest or Lover.ly or even Google image search that we’re missing the biggest source of inspiration available to us: our surroundings. The world around us! Instead of allowing space in our brains to be creative, we’re constantly bombarding ourselves with images of what’s already been done, leaving very little space for original thought.
We all want to create something unique. We want our work to reflect who we are as creative entrepreneurs, as well as showcasing our clients’ personalities and preferences. That’s what sets us apart – the uniqueness of how and what we create. If we’re always creating – or re-creating – someone else’s work, we will always feel unsatisfied, and our work will be lacking that something special. Even if it’s only an internal dissatisfaction, it has a big effect; at the risk of sounding a little new-age, creativity is good for the soul…Re-creativity not so much.
So here’s my challenge to you. Log off of Pinterest. Close your browser. Now go somewhere! Whether it’s for a walk in your neighborhood, downtown, a drive out to the country…the location doesn’t matter. Open your eyes. Really look at what’s around you. Look at the clothing people are wearing. Look at the lights and shadows of the street. Pay attention to the colours of nature. Get inspired by wrought iron fences, unique store-front displays, the graceful lines of a lamp post, graffiti, the outline of clouds. Take it all in. Take in everything around you.
Then go home, grab a notebook and a pencil, and lie down in a dark, quiet room. Let everything that you’ve observed sink in. Open your mind, and let the images flood your thoughts. Visualize what it is you need to create. And when it comes to you – and it will – write it down.
This is a simple creativity exercise, and like any other exercise, it takes regular practice. I used to have what I called “Design Fridays” – every Friday afternoon, I would get out of the office and do this very exercise. Whether I was working on a design for a client or trying to write a blog post or working on marketing collateral… or working on nothing… I made the time to exercise my creativity muscles. Not only did it help me nurture and cultivate my creativity, it had a secondary effect: I developed a natural awareness of everything and everyone around me. Too often, we are consumed by our thoughts, our worries, our smartphones… and we miss it. We miss the beauty that happens all around us every day, in every place.
What other techniques do you use to keep yourself inspired and get the creative juices flowing? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!