Even the most creative people can struggle to find inspiration sometimes. There are many reasons why you might hit a block in your creative life, but don’t despair – there are ways around it.
I’ve had many email conversations with blog readers in the past, discussing their biggest creative struggle at that moment. It’s an interesting question as the most common issue is, and has always been, lack of inspiration.
Finding inspiration was something I struggled with in the past. These days, I have a better understanding of the kinds of things that keep the creative inspiration flowing for me – for example, a hike in nature is always a winner 🌿🌲🌳
But that’s not to say that I don’t have days when spending any time being creative feels a bit like pushing a boulder up a hill!
In this bumper, updated version of this article, I have 14 suggestions to help you find your inspiration to get creative. Click the link to jump straight to that section:
- Stop forcing it and take a break
- Ease yourself in
- Do something you enjoy
- Go for a walk
- Practise mental self care
- Take a look at the work of others
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
- Try something completely different
- Change up your routine
- Go somewhere new
- Set yourself a challenge against the clock
- Do your chores
- Accept that you aren’t perfect – then get creative anyway!
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1. Stop forcing it and take a break
This is one of simplest things but will probably be the one you resist doing. I’m willing to bet that you don’t have an unlimited supply of creative time, and that makes it precious.
Any time spent doing something you want to do rather than something you have to do is precious, right? So to deliberately spend time you had earmarked for creativity in any other way seems crazy.
I like to think of my creative side as a little like a temperamental donkey.
(Bear with me on this…)
The more I try to make it do what I want it to, the more it digs its heels in. You know how donkeys have this (probably unfair) reputation for being stubborn?
But I can guarantee that sometime after I walk away from my sketchbook or laptop, my creative donkey is all “Oh, wait, I have a great idea!”
It’s definitely worth a try!
2. Ease yourself in
I’m now about to contradict the point above and tell you not to stop, or rather to start a creative session by doing something easy and carefree.
So for example if you’re going to be writing, spend the first five or ten minutes free writing. By that I mean write whatever comes into your head, either on a fresh document on your screen or with pen and paper.
Just write, and stop the inner critic from correcting you or stopping you. I look at it as warming up before exercise (although hopefully you shouldn’t pull any muscles by skipping your creative warm-up!).
Another example is doing a whole page of doodles before you start a sketch. Just let the pencil go, like you did when you were five. You may find that what you doodle is unexpectedly awesome anyway.
If you’re painting, start with a page of messiness in your sketchbook. Just paint for the fun of painting rather than to paint anything in particular.
Adults can learn a lot from kids when it comes to creating, and it’s fun to attack the page the way they do. They don’t spend ages agonising over it; they just do it.
3. Do something you enjoy
This is kind of linked to my first point, in that if you’re doing something you feel like you should be doing, it can take the enjoyment out of it.
Feeling like you should be being creative will certainly take the shine off it, so give yourself permission to do the thing you really want to do (even if both activities are creative).
If you really want to be colouring rather than making that birthday card for your friend, spend ten minutes colouring and then make the card. Or make the card and then colour afterwards.
A little bargaining with yourself can work wonders when you’re trying to find inspiration!
4. Go for a walk
This is a double whammy of fresh air and a little light exercise that helps to energise and reset the mind and body.
Sometimes, the change of scenery that comes from walking will help to get the creative juices flowing again.
(To be honest, if a change of scenery helps you, you might consider just moving to a different room. As simple as that is, it somehow seems to kickstart the brain.)
A bit of fresh air can blow away the cobwebs that might have developed as you sit at the desk or table. Try not to actively think about the thing you’re stuck on, but don’t be surprised if you find the ideas flowing as you walk.
It’s definitely a good idea to have something with you to record anything that comes to you, even if it’s just the notes app on your phone.
Don’t rely on your memory. I know from personal experience that you could end up frustrated when you get home having forgotten all your great ideas!
When I say exercise, I basically mean any activity that makes your heart beat faster and also break a sweat (although I accept that there are some exceptions to this!).
Depending on your current fitness level and exercise routine, that could be a brisk walk or it could be a five-mile run.
But as well as being good for the body, exercise helps the mind. The endorphins energise you and motivate you and make you feel ready to tackle anything.
That change in mindset, from the frustration that a creative block prompts to feeling like anything is possible, will help no end with your creativity levels.
6. Practise mental self care
As well as looking after our physical health, we need to think about our mental health too. Being creative can be as much about finding the mental capacity to create as much as anything else.
So if you find yourself resisting being creative, it may not be inspiration that’s the issue but rather a lack of mental space. But when you take better care of your mental health, you’ll find more inspiration around you naturally.
When life is busy and stressful, and outside events happening around the world up our anxiety levels, creativity really takes a back seat.
Try to take a few actions that will help your mental health, like journaling or meditating. Maybe you feel like digging that colouring book out again?
- Journaling: the benefits of regular journaling and how to get started
- Meditation: Why You Should Consider It And How To Get Started
- Colouring Books For Adults: Why You Should Get One
It’s so worth spending time on your mental health, both for your creativity and your life in general. You’ll find you have more creative energy and you’ll be finding inspiration around you once more.
7. Take a look at the work of others
Inspiration can be found all over the place, and you may find that when you go out for a walk you’re inspired by the beauty of nature. I find nature endlessly inspiring.
But if not, you can find so much gorgeous stuff on the internet, on Instagram and Pinterest in particular.
The important thing here is to not end up falling down a rabbit hole for two hours and having ten different ideas but no time in which to create them!
A good idea is to set a timer so that even if you’re absorbed in admiring the work of others, you’ll be brought back to reality to create your own stuff.
You could start by creating an inspiration board of patterns, colours and images you love. Try pinning things to a cork noticeboard, sticking stuff in a scrapbook, making a collage, or creating something digitally on your computer.
If you like to paint, keep a folder or Pinterest board of (copyright-free) photos that you feel like you might like to paint some time. The same goes for if you like to draw. If you’re a crafter, keep a list of tutorials or projects that you want to try. This is the stuff that Pinterest was made for!
If you’re worried about your work being influenced too heavily by the work of others (and this is possible without outright copying someone), consider looking at other fields besides your own.
So if you’re looking for inspiration for a fabric project you’re working on, consider looking at paintings and sketches.
Taking in the shapes, colours and themes of paintings should help to kickstart your creativity without you worrying about subconsciously creating an identical version of someone else’s fabric project.
8. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
I don’t know about you, but for me everything is more difficult when I haven’t had enough sleep. Motivation slips through your grasp and it’s tempting to just do the bare minimum to get through the day.
Then when you have a bit of free time, the kind that ordinarily you crave so that you can do something creative, it’s easier to sit and watch reruns of Friends (even the episodes you’ve seen about fifty times) rather than spend the time being creative.
And that in turn often leads to a bout of beating yourself up. Again, I’m speaking from experience here…
On those tired days, give yourself a break. Making yourself feel even worse about something you didn’t have the energy to do is counterproductive.
But also make the effort to have an early night to really recharge, and see what a difference it makes.
9. Try something completely different
Are you a knitter who has wondered about trying crochet for a while?
Maybe you like sketching with coloured pencils and want to see what a difference watercolour pencils might make to your projects?
Or perhaps you make a lot of fabric projects but want to get into something completely different, like papercraft.
Creative people often have this desire to try all sorts of different creative skills, and it can lead to lots of half-finished projects. (Guilty!)
But if there’s one thing in particular that you pretty much always do – watercolour painting, for example – and you’re finding that for some reason it’s not giving you the pleasure that it used to, maybe it’s time to try something else.
Whether that’s a different skill in your same field – painting with acrylics, maybe – or something completely different – like scrapbooking – you’ll find your inspiration sparked in a way you might not have been expecting.
10. Change up your routine
There’s nothing like a regular routine to kill a creative spark. The trouble with routines is that as soon as we get comfortable with carrying out tasks regularly, at exactly the same time and in the same way every day, we stop thinking about what we’re doing and switch over to autopilot.
Have you ever driven from one place to another, and realised at your destination that you couldn’t remember the journey? If you’re nodding, you know what I’m talking about.
You might think brain autopilot is a positive thing. Maybe it would give our subconscious more time to think about other things such as coming up with creative projects to try? But the reality is often the complete opposite and we get stuck in a rut. A very uncreative rut.
We all have our routines. Day jobs and families mean routines need to be in place to (hopefully) stop life getting too stressful. But every so often, get your brain out of its comfort zone and give it a little jolt by mixing things up.
Could you take a different route to work? Or better yet, could you take a different form of transport altogether? Maybe take a walk on your lunch break rather than browsing Instagram or Facebook.
There are many different little ways you can change up your routine, and even small changes can help you to look at things from a different perspective and feel inspired.
11. Go somewhere new
While we’re on the topic of changing up your routine, how about taking it one step further and going somewhere completely new?
Exposing yourself to different situations will help you find fresh inspiration and even new creative pursuits to try. (The latter may or may not be a good thing, depending on how many hobbies you’ve been sucked into in the past! Again, speaking from experience… 😅)
Make the effort to find new places to go for a day out. Pay attention to what’s going on around you: the sights, the smells, the sounds. Take photos. Above all, be present.
Don’t think ahead to what you have to do when you get home, and don’t worry about stuff that’s coming up next week.
Let yourself enjoy the moment, and you’ll probably find yourself being inspired in ways you never imagined.
12. Set yourself a challenge against the clock
Personally speaking, I’m a sucker for a challenge, but I know they don’t work for everyone. Some people just get stressed when they’re against the clock, and stress doesn’t usually help you find creative inspiration!
But you could try writing for five or ten minutes and seeing what you come up with. That also goes for sketching, or painting, or crafting…
Set yourself a five minute challenge and see what happens. Five minutes isn’t a long time so if you feel like all you’ve created is a mess, then you’ve only spent five minutes doing it.
But I’m willing to bet you’ll surprise yourself.
13. Do your chores
There’s something about mindless tasks that can really help the ideas to flow. Grab the vacuum, wash the dishes, take a shower… Any task that keeps your body busy but your mind relatively free is perfect for giving your brain the space it needs to be creative.
Don’t push it, just let your mind wander. Try to focus on the task you’re carrying out and what you’re experiencing through your senses.
This exercise turns even the most mundane tasks into a kind of meditative experience. Just remember to have something ready to write down the ideas that come to you when you least expect it.
And if you’ve chosen to tidy and declutter in the hope that it might kickstart your creativity, know that creating space in your physical environment will likely also create a little space in your brain, helping the ideas flow more freely!
Sounds like a win-win situation to me…
14. Accept that you aren’t perfect – then get creative anyway
If you wait for the perfect sketch idea before you open that lovely new sketchbook, you’ll never open it. I can almost guarantee your brain will never think an idea is good enough.
The same goes for that nice scrapbooking paper you have in your stash. If you keep it for the perfect project, you’ll never use it.
I was in exactly that position until recently. I kept coming across this pile of gorgeous paper that I’d bought a while ago, and every time I saw it I thought, “Oh, I won’t use that because there will probably be a better project for it.”
Well, I can’t tell you how many years I had that paper before I finally used it, realising how crazy it was that I was keeping it, apparently indefinitely!
The kind of perfection our brains are looking for doesn’t exist, and it’s really just resistance to creating something that we feel might not be good enough.
No one’s perfect, so let’s just embrace that fact and get creative anyway!
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I live in Cardiff with my partner and dog, and in my free time you’ll find me hiking, reading, painting or sampling a craft beer or two.