Inspiration. That strange thing that boosts our brains, lifts our spirits and seems to automagically conduct our hands on the drawing board. Or on the computer keyboard. Or on the rock we’re transforming into a beautiful sculpture. That’s a fantastic feeling to feel. A fantastic place to be in. And fantastic state of your body.
How can you get there all the time? How can we repeat those creative episodes which seems to have no real connection with one each other? Is there anything capable to make our inspiration run on auto-pilot? In today’s post I’ll try to respond to some of those questions.
First of all, the main answer is “Yes”. I think we can re-create inspiration whenever we need it. Didn’t say this is going to be easy, but it’s possible. And second, I think inspiration is not something outside, something you can reach to. It’s something inside, something that you have to learn to let out.
We’re creatives beings, we modify our world in ways it was never modified before. And inspiration is our normal state as human beings. The only reason we can’t always be in that flow is because we’re blocking it. Consciously or, most of the time, unconsciously. We’re building perception walls around our core in order to behave like civilized citizens in the society or because we’re too afraid to let out our full potential. We’re finding excuses and we’re inventing lies, just to avoid the fact that we are inspired people, ready to change the world with a smile. And when we really need that internal power, we can’t find it anymore. It was already buried by our own social conventions or internal fears.
The good news is that you can overcome these blocks. You can find ways to remove the walls and freely manifest your entire potential. Here are 9 verified techniques to boost your inspiration whenever you need it. They’re all based on the approach that we don’t have to search for inspiration but merely remove the blocks in front of it.
1. Free Writing
Start with a blank piece of paper. Put it in front of you and start writing whatever crosses your mind. Don’t bother about grammar or punctuation, just follow your thoughts as close as you can. Write everything you think, regardless of the connection with that specific project you have to work on. In the beginning you’ll find it a little difficult to focus and maybe even struggle a bit to identify your thoughts. But once you wrote several sentences, a surprising flow of thoughts will emerge. You’ll be surprised by the noise in your head. You have so many thoughts in the background and getting them out of your head will seem to last for ever. At some point, the noise will start to lower. Your thoughts will be outside your brain and your focus will slowly start to shift towards your project. Keep writing until you surprise yourself writing your great ideas about your current project.
2. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a fantastic creativity booster. As opposed to linear documents, mind maps are more like graphs, with nodes of information which in turn holds other nodes of information. You can create a mind map for a book, describing each chapter as a node, or for a project, defining each feature as a node. Whenever you have the time to re-create your project, do it with a mind map. Start with the title and then add nodes with features or goals. You can use a software program for that or you can use a blank paper, the physical support doesn’t really matters. One of the biggest things about mind maps is that you see all the project at once. And out of this perspective, from the height of bird-eye view, something will start to change in your project. You’ll start to see new connections, missing links or unnecessary clutter. Before you know it, you will work on your project and feel inspired.
3. Switching Work Places
Ask for a day out of office from your boss and go out. Start to work at home, for instance. Switching work places will have a beneficial effect on your brain. There will be a lot of new stuff to be processed, a lot of your immediate focus will be on the new stimulus around you, so you won’t have enough to keep the roadblocks in place. That’s the mechanism. Whenever you’re surrounded with something new, your internal strings are loose. And that’s a good news if you’re searching for some inspiration. The trick here is to chose your alternative workplaces wisely enough so they will give you plenty of comfort while still challenging your focus with new stimulus. Don’t spend too much time only at home or at the office. Move on, find other places. I had very good results while working in public libraries as well as in coffee shops.
4. Ask Why?
That’s a process I learned from my 3 year old girl. Just ask “why?” until you have nothing more to answer. “Why do I have to make this website?”, “Because I signed a contract.” , “Why did I sign the contract?”, “Because I liked the project.”, “Why I liked the project?”. You go the idea, just play it until you can’t answer anymore. As for the other tip, this one will force your brain to work on what it already knows, let it out question by question and gradually make room for your creative solutions. Even if you think it’s pretty easy to get to the end of the questions, I can assure you it’s not. You’ll be surprised how inventive you can be when it comes to your own motivations. But when you really reach the point “no more answer”, that’s a real breakthrough, believe me. That is the moment you can actually start to work on your project.
5. Find Similarities
Find the closest projects to your assignment and watch them. If it’s an ecommerce website, find the best 5 ecomerce websites and start staring at them. If it’s about a fashion website, find the best 5 fashion websites and start scrutinizing them. This is not intended to make you blatantly copy other people’s work, but to start an internal vibe on your future project. Sometimes you need a starting note just like a musician. All songs are made from the same notes, it’s the specific combination that makes them valuable and uniques. It’s the same in every other area. You use the same tools and instruments like every other people. You work with ideas the same way a musician works with notes. So, find a place to get a decent “E” or “F” and see if it’s matching your internal vibe. Find that specific note and play your own song.
6. Postpone It For A Short While
One of the things that worked pretty well for me was to short term postpone some of the projects I had. Of course, if the context allowed that. If there was a heavy deadline, I couldn’t do this, obviously. But whenever I had enough time to start a project and didn’t had any inspiration at all, I left it in my inbox and reviewed it every morning until something kicked out. Postponing it will cheat a little bit on your internal blocks, it will make the project fly “under the radar“. It’s like keeping a low profile until you find your best opportunity. If you take out the strain on that project a little bit, your internal guardians will start to think it’s not that important and will stop blurring it. You will soon realize you had that brilliant idea about how to kickstart it all the time. It was there from the beginning, but it needed a little time to grow up.
7. Make A List Out Of It
Break it down in smaller chunks until you can’t break it anymore. Too often we can’t get inspiration because the path to the goal is blurred. We don’t know how we’re going to do it. Making a list, like in a sketchy implementation plan (not a full one, a full plan will break inspiration by focusing you on the practical details) will surely change your approach. You will focus on the internal structure of the projects, on their natural flow and the way they all fit in the big picture. A list will allow you to individually pick smaller parts and focus exclusively on them, freeing your resources from a bigger load. If it’s smaller, it’s usually easier to do. At some point, while you’re detailing parts of the project, something will try to tell you: “ok, I know how we’re going to do this”. And that’s inspiration.
8. Close Your Eyes
I’m not kidding. Close your eyes. Don;t do it like in a sweet game of “sugar, there’s a surprise waiting on the living room table, keep your eyes closed until we get there”. No, close your eyes and stay like this for at least 15 minutes. I know it’s difficult to time yourself with your eyes closed, but you got the ideas. Focus on your other senses. Let the project float in the background. Pay attention to the sounds around you, to the subtle air pressure changes, to the smells. You perceive more than 80% of your reality through your eyes. If you can temporarily close this gate, while still maintaining your consciousness alert, you will free some internal resources. At some point, you’ll feel the need to come back to the world, to open your eyes again. And, most of the time, you’ll do this because you just had a fantastic idea. About your project, of course.
9. Get A Second Opinion
You know, it happens more often than you think. You become so caught in your own perfectionist approach, than you forget what inspiration is. You’re focused on the results, on the techniques you use, on the tools and all you want to do is to get that thing done. And when you finish it, you’re so tired that you don’t even know if you were inspired or not. Yes, it happens more often than you think. And instead of moving forward knowing that you did a wonderful job, you erase everything and start over: it was such an ugly project, my god, how could I come up with something like that? Don’t do that. Ask for a second opinion. You may be surprised about how many beautiful things you can create, but you bury them because your low self-esteem.
Inspiration is not something you use, but something you allow to exist from within.
Dragos Roua is a serial online entrepreneur, personal development fanatic, blogger, raw foodist, father, husband, dreamer, risk taker. Think happiness is a process, not a goal. Dragos has an amazing blog where he writes about personal development, productivity and other inspirational topics. You should definitely follow @DragosRoua on Twitter and check out his new ebook – 30 Sentences For A Millionaire Mindset
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Header image via Red Henry