4 Tips on Cornering Inspiration

muse in a box illustration

Over-The-Counter Inspiration. illustration by Andy Black

I think that anyone who creates, whether they be writer, artist, dancer, musician, architect, or inventor, wishes that inspiration was available over-the-counter for those times when ideas don’t easily come. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to pull a box off the shelf, get it home, open it up, and—POOF—fabulous ideas are suddenly knocking around inside that head of yours in a loud but welcome tumble. But alas, it’s not something to be bought or bartered for, and actually that’s the good news.  Inspiration is free.

Free however does not mean it can be acquired without effort.  Inspiration is all around, but if it isn’t coming to you, then you’ll have to go in search of it.  Get up and move, open your eyes and look, perk up your ears and listen, reach out with your hands and touch.

Below are four tips that may help blow the dust from that upper story of yours:

Use your senses. A trip to the gallery, a walk on a windy day, snatches of overheard conversation, lyrics from a song, or the feel of rough bark beneath your fingers can all spark the imagination.  We can cull the germ of an idea from a newspaper clipping, a vintage photograph, a smell, a meal, even a TV commercial.  Go look out your window to Mother Nature’s infinite pallet of colors and catalogue of shapes, her collection of sounds and stockpile of textures.

Probe the depths of your inner self.  Have you ever known, or can you remember the electric, buzzy giddiness of falling in love? Is there physical pain from grief?  What’s the difference between sorrow and sadness, or happiness and contentment? Try to recall that snippet of dream before it dissolves in the morning light.

Grab a hold of the things you know.  Mine your past.  Describe the familiar.  If you know about genealogy, show dogs, glass blowing, high stakes poker, or antique car restoration, use it. Read and digest a book, paying attention to the way an author you like uses language.  Make a mental note of what makes an evocative simile or an effective metaphor.

To steal a phrase from the advertising world: just do it.  If you are an author, write.  If you are an artist, draw.  If you are a musician, play.  If you are a dancer, move.  You get the idea. Don’t over think it, don’t analyze it.  Don’t edit or judge, just take action. You’re not going for perfection here, but you are still likely to produce something useful.

This is not an exhaustive list, and Lord knows there is no shortage of resources devoted to sparking the imagination.  In my book, the key is being proactive.  If your muse has deserted you, don’t let her get too much of a head start.  Get out of your chair and chase after her.


4 comments on “4 Tips on Cornering Inspiration

  1. I like your four step process!

    I’d also recently seen Edward De Bono’s six thinking hats, which is similar to what you propose… he just puts colors to them.

    Isn’t it cool to see like minded creatives along the same path even with different mediums?!

  2. Andrew– Its nice to know we are all on the same page. Same basic message, just different labels.

  3. Well, as Jack London said…you can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club…

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