Surges of inspiration can feel magical. You get that creative spark and suddenly the planets become aligned and you’re at one with the creative universe.
The task at hand is a joy and time stands still. Some of our best work happens during these flashes of inspiration. Unfortunately, these flashes don’t come as often as we might like.
Personally, if I always waited until I felt inspired to work on my art (or anything else, for that matter) I wouldn’t get much done. I rarely feel inspired to do the dishes or fold laundry, but I like how it feels to have a clean home and fresh clothes, so I do these things regardless of whether I feel inspired to do them and oftentimes, once I’ve gotten started, I find myself getting lost in the work.
In fact, most of the time, inspiration doesn’t visit me until after I’ve stopped expecting it to show up and have gone on getting on with my business.
The same can be true for me with drawing, writing, and pretty much any other type of work. I know why I want to do the work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to feel inspired to do that kind of work in that particular moment.
Inspiration is like a lap cat: Try to coax it to visit you and it can’t be bothered, but start focusing on something else and suddenly, your lap becomes the prime cuddling target.
Below are a few takeaways from what I’ve learned about inspiration as a creative person over the past twenty years. I hope my perspective helps you as you approach and overcome your own unique creative ebbs and flows.
Want inspiration? Schedule it.
That’s right: The single best way to consistently find inspiration is to make yourself available for it by showing up. Showing up means being consistent and doing the work regardless of how inspired you might—or might not—feel.
Put in the pencil miles.
I love the practice of Pencil Miles. Pencil Miles isn’t about creating beautiful drawings. Pencil miles is about building the habit of drawing. Even if you just make marks on the paper, you’re putting in the pencil miles. You’re building the habit and thus opening the door for inspiration to walk in.
I’ve had plenty of evenings where I just wasn’t feeling up to drawing but I did so anyway...sometimes just practicing circles and lines. Inspiration didn’t always show up those evenings, but had I not gotten out my pencil and put in the time, I wouldn’t have given myself the space to receive the inspiration which followed.
I’ve also had plenty of days where I didn’t feel inspired to write but deadlines made me sit down to do the work anyway. Once I began getting lost in the work, inspiration met me halfway.
Become a master at getting started.
The better you become at overcoming resistance the more easily you can hop in, get lost, and find the inspiration you seek.
Try scheduling the work you want to be inspired to do and commit to a deadline. If you want to hold your future self accountable, leave a note for yourself in the calendar details about why this particular task is important enough for you to schedule it into your day.
I cover how to stay focused more in-depth here, but what helps me most when facing resistance are the systems and habits I’ve built using time blocking, the Pomodoro technique, visual cues, audio cues, and mindfulness.
Collect and reflect.
Sometimes inspiration strikes at inconvenient times. When this happens, make the most of those flashes by saving them for future access when you’ll need them. Quick-capture your ideas on your smart phone or on a notepad and, when possible, organize these ideas into categories which you can refer back to when needed.
Reflecting on past flashes of inspiration can help you remember why you got excited to do something in the first place when you’re having trouble rekindling your creative spark.
Afterthoughts: While there are many other ways to keep yourself motivated and find inspiration, I wanted to limit this article to what has worked best (and consistently) for yours truly. If you have some tried-and-true methods for tackling motivation and creative blocks you’d like to share, feel free to send them my way!