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’ve got a lot of projects on my plate, so I’ve been work work working nonstop. Not good for my soul—or my work either, actually. 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.

reading

Favorites are Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, Wendell Berry, and Madeleine L’Engel.

3. A nap and/or sandwich.

If my brain is fried, I probably need to take care of myself physically. Not binge-watch something on Netflix, not binge on ice cream, and definitely not binge on my work (it’s a thing, especially if you love your work).

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.

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

This quote from Ira Glass is one of my all-time favorite thoughts about work—and an artist took it to the next level with this fantastic (short) 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. There are seasons when it’s just time to do the to-do list, not paint your next masterpiece. It’s just how life works.

Just like when our kids’ times tables and handwriting jumps a level when they take a week off, I, too, need time to just chill. Don’t force the inspiration. Put up the hammock and head there with a book as soon as the work day ends.

Change your work from drudgery to delight.

If you've ever felt confused about what you're meant to do...

You're not alone.

Like Your Life can help you
figure it out.

9 Comments

  1. Jennifer Friesen

    Hey Tsh, just wanted to thank you for including Upstream in this year’s Ultimate Bundle – it was definitely a selling point for me! I’m really looking forward to it!

  2. Sandi

    I would be curious to know the parts of the bundle you really love. I basically bought it to get your Upstream Guide and probably a will go for similar other interests.LOVE, LOVE the Ira Glass video. Passing it onto my very creative artistic 16 yr old who knows where she wants to go but is frustrated with how much she knows she still needs to grow. Yes, she is really a fantastic artist…..she just can’t see that very well at 16. This is just the beginning of the story for her! Loved this for myself too. I have things to write and keep putting it off.

  3. Christina

    The power of the nap!
    It is so nice to be able to take one when I need it.
    I also suggest waiting until tomorrow morning. As in, get some boring tasks done now, things that don’t take much thinking, but leave the big writing conundrum for tomorrow morning after you’ve gone to sleep early and woken up early.

  4. keerthisuresh

    I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  5. Anna

    Nature is a big source on refreshment and inspiration for me. Sometimes, I just need to take a break to do something with my hands that is creative in a different way- like cooking, baking, or crafting. Listening to music can also help me (like poetry for you.)

  6. Andi Wahyudi

    Hi friend,
    every people can get their inspiration from different ways, and those points you said are some of them. And I think nature, environment, people are the biggest influences in getting our inspiration, while drinking a cup of coffee.

  7. Gina E.

    Thank you! I really needed to read this today. I feel like I’m dragging quite a bit these days. I rarely comment, but I love your books and blog!

Get our weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where we share new stuff from the blog and podcast—that way you’ll never miss a thing. Tsh also shares other goodness from around the web... It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.

(You’ll also get her quick list of her 10 favorite essays and podcast episodes from around here, helping you wade through a decade of content.)