How I find inspiration

Where do you go when you’re low on inspiration, but well—you gotta be inspired?

Maybe you’ve got a work or school deadline, and your brain just isn’t working. Perhaps you miss being inspired, and are wanting a thing to respark it. Maybe you’re bored in the humdrum of everyday life and want to make your to-do list less to-doish.

All me lately. I had a major book edits deadline two weeks ago, and then I had another major work project right after, so I’ve been work work working nonstop. My work requires inspiration, but if I work too much, inspiration vanishes. Vicious circle.

Here’s where I go when I need a jolt of creativity.

1. Nature.

No surprise here—I have to be outdoors on a regular basis or I fizzle. In fact, a lack of inspiration is a sign for me that I haven’t been in nature enough.

going on a walk

I stop what I’m doing and go for a walk. It initially feels like a time-waster, but I always, always come back refreshed and reenergized. I need trees, grass, water, and sky.

2. Poetry.

Reading poems forces me to slow down, and that’s usually what I need to do when I’m uninspired. I’m frantically searching for that jolt, and rarely does it come frantically.

Poetry is slow, and it’s the stuff of life. It reminds me what life is about—and that’s the birthplace of my personal creativity.


Current favorites are Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, and Madeleine L’Engel.

3. A nap and/or sandwich.

I wrote about this in my recent personal monthly newsletter. If my brain is fried, I probably need to take care of myself physically.

A few hours’ deep sleep, some healthy food, and a lot of water work wonders. It’s surprising how often I need to heed the advice I give my kids—just go to bed. You’re exhausted.

4. Other people.

This isn’t copying. This is finding a spark by leaning my match into someone’s already-roaring flame. A good blog post, an artist’s painting, a sermon, or a funny YouTube video—sometimes these are all I need to get me reinvigorated.

I still love this quote from Ira Glass—an artist took it to the next level with this fantastic video:

5. Not sweating it.

If I’m spinning my wheels too hard trying to conjure up creativity that’s just not going to happen, sometimes I just need to shrug my shoulders and move on. Perhaps it’s not time to be inspired.

Sure, I still gotta work—perhaps this is when I do the work that doesn’t require a mammoth heaping of ingenuity. I just do the thing in front of me.

Just like my kids’ times tables and handwriting jumps a level when they take a week off, I, too, need time to just chill.

(This is definitely what I’m doing this next week.)

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