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Creative Un-Stucking – Finding Inspiration from Within and Without

Methods for finding creative inspiration when stuck

The last post explored what it’s like to get stuck creatively and how shifting your perspective out of “stuck” and into something else can open you up to generating new and more innovative ideas.

But there are also ways of shifting your perspective organically. Like finding inspiration.

Inspiration can be found in two places: Within and without. Technically, though, inspiration is by definition from within, so what I really mean by within and without is this:

Within: Sparking your creative fire by playing with your physiology.

Without: Sparking your creative fire by feeding it.

Finding Inspiration from Within: Playing with Your Physiology

Finding inspiration by manipulating your physiology is about putting yourself into a state of being in which your brain and chemistry automatically work differently. Specifically, in a way that triggers creativity.

Most of us have experienced the Shower Phenomena – the ah-ha moment that comes when you are naked, dripping wet and without a writing implement.

There is a reason this happens – it’s the physiology of creativity.

That said, I don’t want us to worry about the inner workings of finding inspiration via physiology right now. Instead, I want to share several ways to simply trigger it. Because while understanding the science behind physiology triggering methods is nice, it’s not at all necessary for taking advantage of them.

Finding Inspiration from Without: Feeding Your Creative Fire

Finding inspiration by feeding yourself inspiring fodder can also be a way of triggering creativity-inducing physiology – depending on what you’re feeding yourself.

So, there is overlap in the “from within” and “from without” approaches (example: a long walk in nature is an approach that falls under both – the act of walking shifts physiology and nature might be your brand of creative fodder).

But looking at feeding your creative fire separately from triggering your physiology is important because doing that provides a whole separate toolbox for creativity. And that’s the whole point of the stuck discussion – to find lots of different tools for un-stucking yourself creatively.

While what inspires each of us is very individual, there are two common truths in finding inspiration from without that likely apply to everyone:

  • Inspiration from without comes easier and faster when sought from areas related to what you are creating. It doesn’t matter if they’re a perfect match, they just have to be related for you. For example, if you want to write a poem, reading other poets is seeking inspiration in a related area (no one would argue that writing poetry and reading poets is related). But watching a David Mamot film may be related to you if it’s the craft of language that creates the relation. In this case then, looking for inspiration for a poem might come from the well-crafted language of a poem or the well-crafted language of a film. And your “related” may be broader than that. I can find my inspiration for creating almost anything in any media (from cooking to dressing to painting) by experiencing what I consider to be amazing and moving creations – watching Cirque Du Soleil or listening to the Saltimbanco soundtrack, for instance, gets me unstuck creatively almost always. 
  • Generally, there are some areas that inspire all people, but what within those areas, what inspires YOU is still individual. Music is an example. And, here again is also an example of the crossover between finding inspiration from within (using your physiology) and from without (seeking inspiring fodder). Under our radar, music shifts our physiology and, on the surface, music contains many inspiring aspects.

Ways and Means of Inspiration Finding:  Following are a few tricks for getting unstuck using “within” and “without” methods – they may look simple, but they’re extremely powerful.

Inspiration from Within (or Why Working at Being Creative Doesn’t Look Much Like Work)

  • Take a long walk.
  • Take a nap.
  • Take a shower.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Listen to music.
  • Have sex.
  • Do a boring, repetitive task (hopefully, not sex)
  • Workout.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Take a break.

Inspiration from Without (or Turing Outside Input Into Creative Output)

  • Go outside and into nature.
  • Read about people who are creating in your medium – or look at their works.
  • Make a very specific music mix based on songs you know inspire you.
  • Watch an artful film or play.
  • Talk to others about what you’re working on – and ask them about what they’re working on.
  • Blog or journal about what you are creating.
  • Read, look at, listen to, watch others creating in your medium.
  • Create a mind map, vision board or collage around your creation’s topic.

To inspired un-stucking,

Susan B.