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5 Sources of Creative Inspiration

Getting stuck is a big deal. In my world it means progress stops. So getting from an uncreative space to a creative space is integral to thriving.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that restarting the creative process is typically a matter of moving in one of two directions. I refind my mojo by taking things from very structured to very unstructured or visa versa.

5 Sources of Creative Inspiration

  1. Improvisational jazz or intensively introspective classical music. I have a few works from Miles Davis and Rachmaninoff that seem to come in handy at different times. The ordered chaos in Miles Davis seems to help my brain make sense of things when I’m going a million different directions on a project, all of which I like but can’t figure out how they fit. And the acapella All Night Vigil has a unique ability to both calm and awaken my senses. Anxiety, particularly that my work will be rejected, is a major block. For some reason Rachmaninoff helps me release that.
  2. Magazines. I like the staccato pace of magazines. While I do get a few regularly I can’t say that I read one all the time. But when I’m stuck I tend to gravitate to a magazine. There’s something about the page turning, the ads, and getting stuck on a story that always leads me to my notebook to draw or sketch. (Or Evernote if I’ve got new ideas.)
  3. A walk or bike ride. Sometimes I just need to think about something else for a while in order to think about a project in a new way. Taking the dog for a walk in our neighborhood or riding my bike somewhere is a great stress relief and for some reason typically helps me clear my mind enough where eventually, almost accidentally, my mind will free enough to release a creative idea.
  4. Web design showcases. For some reason this helps me even if I’m not working on a web project. I subscribe to several web design sites and when they publish showcases of cool designs I always bookmark them for later. There’s something inspiring about seeing how people are using the latest HTML5 tags or what’s hot in Polish web design or the hottest trends in mobile app sales.
  5. Deadlines. I’m a middle schooler on the inside. The pressure of a deadline gets my juices flowing. Maybe it’s the desire to get stuff done on time and maybe it’s the pending reality of failure? Who cares! I find the approach of a deadline an important part of the creative process. It helps me get to past the point of something needing to be perfect and into the frame of “What is the best I can do with the time I have available?”

Creative buzzkills

These are probably unique to me but maybe they are stopping your flow, too?

  • Novels and non-fiction books. I find biographies sources of inspiration. But novels and non-fiction works tend to suck creativity from my brain.
  • Pressure to perform in the moment. There are times when I can come up with amazing things in a group setting. But typically, my best group work comes in lulls in the action. But if you walk up to me and demand three ideas for something I know nothing about, I’ll punt every single time.
  • A palette too big or too small. I do best with some parameters. A few, not too many.
  • Interruptions. It can take me a couple hours of fiddling around to really get into a creative groove. But it can take only a single interruption to get me out.

I suppose this all just proves one thing. I’m a pain in the neck to work with!

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

3 replies on “5 Sources of Creative Inspiration”

Interesting about Jazz. I was a jazz major in college and it was a great exercise in creativity. What I found was something you noted. To be truly creative in jazz, I had to be open enough to new ideas (notes and rhythms) yet closed enough not to try to do everything all at once. The best times of creativity is when I limited myself to a couple of parameters. Good thoughts here.

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