The Inspiration Myth | 8 Ways to Get Creative Instantly

reading time: 7 min

INSPIRATION [noun] The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

As I am currently holding my second seminar on Creative Writing at my former university, I've spent some time thinking about the phenomenon of inspiration and creativity. While inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of ideas due to mental stimulation, creativity is usually conceived as the direct result of inspiration – the flame that is kindled by the spark, so to speak. 

This belief often makes us think of creativity and inspiration of something passive, something that either "comes to us" or that doesn't, like a divine influence, a.k.a. the "kiss of the muse".

I find this passive concept very dangerous and also very false. The idea of inspiration as an external force that feeds our internal well of creativity is simply a myth. Yes, you can feel inspired by external impulses such as images you see and words you hear, and yes, writer's block does exist (just like burnout exists), but you are not dependent on the "kiss of the muse" by any means, and there are effective techniques to get inspired and creative instantly.

So here are my 8 tangible tips on how to spark your own creative fire!

»Creativity is the ability to connect the unconnected. The melting of existing knowledge into new insights about the world around us.«
Maria Papova

1. Set up a creative space

In order to feel productive and totally in the zone, you need create the right environment. For me as a writer that means to have a clean and clutter-free desk with only my notes for the project I'm working on, and also to be surrounded by things I love, like plants, crystals * and my favourite books. This is a great first step towards awakening your inner inspiration because it's easy and it won't make you feel pressured to be "creative". And you can literally do it right now!

Once you've tidied your space, turn it into a cosy and feel-good spot that you will enjoy spending hours in. Surround yourself by things you love and that inspire you: a vision board, postcards, beautiful artwork, flowers, a cup of coffee or your favourite tea, candles, music ... Create an atmosphere that is both peaceful and inspiring.

* Crystals that are said to promote creativity include fluorite, aventurine, carnelian, celestine, citrine, tiger's eye, jasper, and lapis lazuli.

2. Consume less, create more

I don't like to sound like a granny, but nowadays we usually start our day by looking at our phone, checking our e-mails or Instagram, or reading the news. The problem with that is that all of these activities are passive, we are reacting to impulses like messages, and not acting, not being active. However, like I explained in the intro above, creating art, being creative, activating inspiration requires us to be active instead of passive. 

That's why it is so, so important to cut our consumption (I'm talking Youtube videos, TV, Facebook posts, Instagram feed, images on Pinterest, even books). Instead of binge-watching Netflix for hours on end, get into a habit of starting your day with something active / creative, like journaling, tending to your plants, exercising, doodling, dancing to music, heck even cleaning or doing the dishes. If you can, end your day with it, too. Drench yourself in creative things and activities as much as you can, read books you love, sing, paint, dance, travel, explore... and absorb all the beautiful things around you that life gives you: a ray of sunlight filtering through the canopy, a tiny white flower blossoming at the wayside.

3. Embrace boredom

Going hand in hand with our daily consumption of entertaining content and our busy lifestyle, we rarely experience true "boredom" any more. And if we do feel bored, we quickly distract ourselves with our smartphones or the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. Boredom in its nature is quite unpleasant, it makes us feel restless and unchallenged at the same time, but exactly this feeling of dissatisfaction and seeking is proven to stimulate creativity. It is motivating! 

So the next time you feel bored or don't know what to with yourself, just sit it out. Don't divert yourself with the next best funny fail compilation on Youtube. Instead, lean into being bored, just allow it to be. Shut down your internet connection, and see where your boredom takes you. Embrace those dull moments – they give you the space to dream and re-connect and come up with innovative ideas!

Make it a habit before you sit down to write, paint, or brainstorm a new project, to spend some time letting your mind wander, muse, reflect. You could also do a mundane task like mowing the lawn, pulling up weeds, doing the dishes or showering to set your brain free to roam.

4. Get outside the box

You've probably heard this a lot but: the best thing to do when you're feeling stuck and uninspired is to step out of your comfort zone to expand your mind. 

That can be taken quite literally by getting outside and going for a walk, as moving your body will also stir your creativity. It can also be by exploring things you've never done before, like making pottery, travelling solo, skinny dipping, growing your own vegetables ... Be curious about everything, pay attention to the small things, and come back with a fresh mind and possibly a bunch of new ideas that randomly emerged while you weren't even trying to be inspired!

5. Restrict yourself 

It seems like a contradiction to restrict yourself in order to free your imagination, but limiting your tools or options with your creative work is a wonderful method to a) get out of your comfort zone, and b) encourages your improvisation skills and thereby your creativity – hence the phrase: Necessity is the mother of invention

A few examples: If you are a painter, restrict yourself to only using make-up like mascara, lipstick or eye shadow for painting, or paint with your non-dominant or opposite hand only. If you are a photographer, shoot with a disposable camera or any camera with no zoom, no autofocus and no interchangeable lenses, or try to make ugly objects or an ugly location look aesthetic. If you are a writer, do writing prompts like describing the most beautiful sunset without using the words "sun" and "sky" or writing an argument between two people without using dialogue. The opportunities of restricting yourself are – ironically – endless!

6. Stream of consciousness

This is an exercise I do with my students every week at the beginning of class. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, and set a 10 or 15 minute timer. Spend this time writing without taking your pen off the paper. The trick to this is not to filter anything that pops up at all – don't think, just write! Whatever comes to mind should be written.

You can either do this morning pages free-writing style (your random thoughts and worries, feelings and moods) or to do a creative writing prompt where you are given a topic or a sentence that you are expected to respond to, for example "the morning after", "It was a dark and stormy night" or "Great, said Death. You're not supposed to be hear yet". Whatever you choose, the key here is to not put the pen down unless it is to shake your hand out, and to only stop writing once the timer goes off. This is a wonderful method to spark your imagination and to cure artist's block.

7. Make an appointment with your creativity

Another easy tool to get creative is to simply make time for your creative work. Take yourself and your work seriously! Schedule it in your planner (perhaps 30 minutes or even just 15, or maybe 2 hours if it's a weekend) like you would do with any other appointment, and set an alarm on your phone as a reminder. If you don't yet feel disciplined enough to stick to your self-imposed deadlines, sign up for a public art class or a writing workshop, or whatever your creative work requires.

8. Be uncreative!

Last but not least, take off the pressure. Allow yourself to be uncreative and require downtime for yourself. If we just create and produce constantly we get to a place know as burnout, so give yourself time and space to breathe! It's okay to feel uncreative and uninspired, so don't stress out. Chill, be bored, have fun!

You ARE creative, even if you don't feel like it at the moment. There is no separate "well of creativity and inspiration" outside of you – it is within you! It IS you! Trust that you will re-connect yourself with it, and let go.

Wishing you an inspired weekend!