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How To Create When You Aren't Feeling Inspired

And while we're at it, how to feel inspired more often

Don't sit around waiting for inspiration.

I’m gonna be honest, I don’t feel like writing right now. I’m not feeling particularly inspired. I’d rather just be hanging out in bed and eating cookies. The words aren’t flowing easily. But that doesn’t matter. If you want to get something done, especially something creative, you can’t just sit around waiting for inspiration and the “perfect” idea to strike. Because, take it from a creative person, that doesn’t happen. Or if it does, it’s fairly rare. Only working when you’re feeling creative or inspired generally means that work gets done sporadically, and often is left incomplete. So if you need to do creative work but aren’t feeling inspired, how do you get around that?

Keep a running list. Inspiration often strikes while you’re busy with something else. It’s hard to be creative under pressure, but while you’re running or driving or cooking, brilliant ideas often pop into your read. Write them down. Keep a list somewhere convenient, I use the Google Keep app on my phone, so that you can write down whatever idea you’re having as you have it. That way, there’s always a list of good ideas waiting around for when you’ve actually set aside time to work. I find myself adding to my inspiration list often, so there’s always ideas to work with when I get down to writing, even if I’m not inspired when I actually sit down to write. Just go through the list, pick something that looks interesting, and get to work.

Create CONSTANTLY. Take every moment you can to just keep creating new things, even if you don’t have any ideas. Pick up the paintbrush, sit at the piano, or whatever your medium of choice is, and just get going. It doesn’t matter if 97% of what comes out is complete crap. Hit random notes in random orders. Close your eyes and mix whatever colors your paintbrush happens to land in. Open your laptop and write down whatever words pop into your head. They don’t even have to be sentences, just words. If you just keep throwing out new ideas, something great will come.

I used this technique when I made 1000 pots as part of my studio art major. Each pot is unique. The first 400 or so came pretty easily. I had lots of ideas and wanted to practice a lot and work on my technical skills. But after about 500 pots, I ran out of ideas.

At that point, I’d sit down at the wheel with my lumps of clay and just play around. I’d let my fingers do what they wanted. I tried tons of new things. Any random idea that popped into my head, I tried it. Tons of those pots were terrible. Eventually, somewhere around pot 800, I took a shape I made often and rather than make it convex, I made it concave.

The result blew my mind. I LOVED it. It wasn’t a form I typically would associate with myself and my style. Most of my work is fairly minimalist. It has simple, clean, unbroken lines. This new thing was way more playful and feminine than anything I would’ve ever thought of if I had only created new work when ideas popped into my head. I had forced myself to just keep making, and making, and making, and running with any ideas I could think of, whether I liked them or not, whether they seemed reasonable or not. And by doing this, I had stumbled on something great.

Many of my last 200 pots played with this new shape I had just found. I also often altered these pots using techniques similar to those of my mentor and clay-mom, Tina. Almost every single one of the first 800 pots was unaltered. It wasn’t “my thing”. But as I played with my new concave form, I discovered I loved how it looked when I altered them. By forcing myself to work well past the point of actually feeling “inspired”, I discovered something totally new and amazing that I fell in love with. Creating constantly, especially if you don’t have any ideas, will do that. Just go for it. Throw together random things until something amazing comes out of it.

In addition to creating constantly, consume other people’s work constantly. If you’re a comic artist, fill your Instagram feed with as many comics as possible. Befriend every other comic artist that you can find on Facebook. Bombard yourself with comics. If you want to become a blogger, find other bloggers that you look up to and whose content makes you want to work on your own content, and drink it up. Filling your world with the work of others gives your mind content to digest, even if you don’t realize you’re thinking about it. Their work will influence yours, yes, but it will also be the tinder for some of your greatest ideas. Don’t copy their work, obviously, but marinate yourself in it. Dissect the content that interests you. Figure out why you don’t like the stuff you don’t like. The more you bombard yourself with content, the more your subconscious will be playing with that content and formulating new ideas to inspire you.

Create an environment that inspires you. When I sat down to write a bit ago, I wasn’t feeling inspired. I didn’t want to write. But I know that a warm cup of chai, my plants, a candle, and a warm blanket put me more in the mood to write. So I made myself some tea, lit a candle, and found a blanket. As I did all this, I told myself that when the tea was ready, I’d write. And here I am, wrapping up this post. Am I feeling super inspired and motivated right this second? Nah. But I am feeling much more excited about writing than I was before the tea and blanket. If you find listening to Taylor Swift makes you enjoy drawing more, put on some T-Swift. If you find a walk in nature makes you want to write music, go take a walk. Do those little side things that you associate with your creative practice. Show up in the studio. Turn on your desk lamp. Make yourself that snack you always eat while you’re working. Cultivate some habits that go along with your creative work so that when you do them, it puts you in the mood to work.

Now go create. I don’t care if you’re not feeling inspired. Create often. Create a lot. The more you do it, the better you’ll get and the more new ideas you’ll stumble across. If you’re constantly just sitting and waiting for inspiration to strike, you’ll never get anywhere. Inspiration is unreliable, and as you’re aware, we don’t like unreliable things here.

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