I get asked a lot how to stay inspired. Sure, I write a lot about burnout and discontent, but how do we stay inspired through it all?
Let me start by talking about where I find my own inspiration. The first obvious answer is by watching my fellow creators create. Places like Dribbble, Pinterest, and Instagram are great spots to stay up on trends and see the best design and illustration work around.
But if I’m being honest, sometimes those places can be discouraging because the work is so good. I’ve been a designer for over ten years now, and I still feel like I’m just “not quite good enough” yet – simply because I’m constantly made aware of the best of the best. I can drool over the work of Dan Christofferson, Sam Kaufman, John Dyer Baizley, or David Tevenal, just to name a few. I’ll sit down to create and feel like I totally suck because I just wish I could make something as good as them.
Blah, blah, I know right?
So besides admiring the work of others, where else do I get my inspiration?
Shameless Self Promo!
Let me think about this…
What IS inspiration anyway?
Inspiration, to me, is divine creative energy. It comes in surges and waves. It’s a lightning bolt of creativity channeled into my consciousness from spirit. It says, “wow, I must create!” Or a surge of resonance with something in your reality. Something about what you are observing “resonates” with you – which to me means you are vibrating at harmonic frequency. Like a beautiful harmony played on a piano. It feels really good.
Maybe it was an article you read that unleashed an epiphany or aha! moment. Maybe it was the pink and orange hue of the stormy sunset that suddenly pulled you out of autopilot as you drive down the freeway. A recognition of beauty. Sometimes it can be so captivating that it makes us cry. How emo, right? But seriously, this is a fantastic gift.
It’s a moment where we temporarily access the divine relationship between all things. It’s always there, waiting for us to notice it. But too often we are plugged into our technology and routine. Too busy to notice.
I get inspiration from nature. Big time. I don’t even have to do anything, I just have to go out into nature and just be with it. Turn off my mind and open my heart and take in the beauty around me. The forest and the beach, it’s always there for me! I can connect to it any time I want to. The great thing about it is that when you choose to engage with it like this, it shows it’s appreciation by loving you back. That is inspiration to me.
Sometimes inspiration takes the form of an intense feeling of MUST. Contrast this with the intense feeling of SHOULD. Those are two different types of motivations. The motivations for MUST are driven by your core self, your spirit, your heart. The motivations for SHOULD are driven by external results like fame, fortune, and ego. Side note, I just finished reading Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must and I highly recommend it!
I watched a TED talk by Jan Jandai titled “Life is easy, why do we make it so hard?” – and it hit me hard. I felt this feeling of relief and inspiration. It’s was such an obvious recognition of the truth. I immediately felt an intense MUST to travel to Thailand and participate in his Pun Pun Center for Self Reliance to learn how to grow some of my own food and even make my own shelter. I didn’t even realize this was a desire for me, but it became one that day.
As difficult as it is to explain, it feels a lot like divine motivation. It’s a deep desire from within, that holds a feeling of relief and peace along with it. It feels like “home” so to speak.
That is the type of inspiration worth acting upon. The other type of inspiration, the one motivated more by ego than spirit, doesn’t seem to be as promising.
I’ll get inspired to act when I read a blog post like “10 ways to double your traffic” or “How to write copy that converts.” These delicious and intoxicating articles provoke me to act but in the end I usually end up feeling a little less authentic. Like somehow I had to sacrifice a part of myself to manipulate the game to my advantage. I can’t deny that this motivation was real. But it might have just been appealing to my desire to be important, wanted, and popular.
Another example of this type of inspiration is when you repeatedly try to copy the popular styles in your creative projects. It might “work” in the sense that you get more likes, shares, and heck, even more clients. But in the end you feel shallow and like you’re not being yourself.
This type of inspiration feeds off our desires to fit in and be part of the crowd. I’ve done this because I’m out of touch with my own internal motivations. I do this when I doubt myself and can’t trust my skills. I have definitely done my share of copying trends and taking shortcuts to get “results.”
How to get the GOOD kind of inspiration?
Where do we find the real inspiration? This requires a little discernment. You’ll need to be able to tell the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Spirit or ego. It’s not like one is right or wrong, but spirit inspiration feels expanding and joyful. It instills a desire to learn or grow. The other feels urgent and competitive. Either way you are acting and you are creating. It’s up to you to decide how to utilize both forms of energy.
But if you want to live more in alignment with your true self, listen to your intuition and “follow your must.” Make time to connect to your inner self. You will access the divine feminine energy of creation and life itself. Then channel the divine masculine energy to act on it and smash through any resistance that holds you back.
Here are some ways to access true inspiration.
- Embrace solitude and silence. Make time to be alone.
- Listen to that intuition. That gut instinct.
- Get away from technology. Turn off your smart phone.
- Go outside. Get in touch with nature.
- Meditate. Loosen the grip that the MIND has over you.
- Doodle, scribble, sketch, or make messes.
- Dance, exercise, move your body.
- Keep a journal. Be in touch with your feelings.
- Make it a habit. Regularly get in touch with this part of you.
Notice How You Feel
When you look at other people’s work – and that includes music and movies and other media, pay attention to how it makes you feel inside. When I listen to some of my favorite bands, it reminds me how much I love to make music. It might stir up the desire to create a new song. Sure, I will be influenced by the styles I like, but I can work with it. There is SOMETHING about the specific styles I like (punk, trap, folk, etc) that resonate with me. What is it? When you engage with media you enjoy, it will activate certain parts of you. Pay attention.
When you get inspired to create for the sheer joy of creating, do it! We all get ideas in our head that we are curious what would be like manifested in physical form. I get a drum beat or melody in my head, sometimes I just need to push it out to feel satisfied. Or I’ll get a feeling that I’d like to express in my art and it NEEDS to come out. There, it’s created! Next!
When you attempt to act on your inspiration, you will likely encounter blocks. Fear, self-doubt, etc. Notice how you might prevent yourself from acting on that inspiration because it might not “pay” well. Or it might make you look weird or be too different from the styles you normally do. Or you might be scared to try something new because you aren’t good at it. Or you are drooling over the work of others and feel insecure or incapable. Don’t let that freeze you up! Just get in there and create. The path of the heart is filled with well intentioned challenges!
It’s best to act on inspiration right away if you can. Because it is fleeting. But you can make inspiration a regular thing by practicing some of the tips I listed above. This will open up your connection to your own divine creative spirit more regularly. Then your creations feel more authentically you instead of just copies of what other people make.
I feel compelled to end this article by reminding you that you are already perfect as you are. Don’t take my advice because you feel like you’re doing it wrong. You are an inspiration already, you just have to take notice!