How to Break Through Creative Blocks and Find Inspiration

how to find inspiration - A torso of a person holding an illuminated light bulb while writing in a notebook while a laptop sits at one side.
kelvn/Shutterstock, mhatzapa/Shutterstock, mhatzapa/Shutterstock, Remix by Caterina Cox

Every creator has a different process, but when you’re looking for inspiration, there are tried-and-true tactics that have proven wildly effective across the creative spectrum. Whether you’re a Twitch comedian, a TikTok dancer, an Instagram bodypainter, or you’re still using X for some reason (R.I.P. Twitter), here’s a fail-safe guide for how to find inspiration.

What is inspiration in the creative process?

Inspiration is simply taking in something outside of yourself and being like, “holy crap, that gives me an idea.” The best inspiration comes from looking outward, being open-minded, and listening to your innermost reaction to that stimulus. If this sounds vague, don’t worry, I’m about to get super detailed up in here.

Three methods for getting creative inspiration—in order of how much you have to actually move your body:

1. How to find inspiration without putting down your phone.

We know The Algorithm feeds us what we want to see, so how can we find new content and creators? An easy way to change your feed is to tell the robots you don’t like something! On the Instagram Explore page, if you see a post you’re not into anymore, tap and hold the item and click “not interested.” On TikTok, when scrolling the For You page, tap and hold a post until options pop up, and click “not interested.” (It’s a little heartbreak icon, because you’re breaking up with the content, apparently.)

Are you someone who happens to like their feed the way it is? Do you have zero desire to mess with your perfectly curated algorithm? No worries! Just start a dummy account. Use the new account to follow creators who are totally outside your normal feed. Professional dancers, painters, calligraphers, comedians, wood carvers, silly moms, silly dogs, silly ferrets, urban foragers, macro photographers, gardeners, jewelry makers—dig deep to find artists outside of your own craft, and go crazy with the follows. Then, whenever you’re feeling stuck, hop over to your dummy account and see what’s up over there.

2. How to find inspiration without leaving your house.

Does your tiny wrist computer ever tell you “TIME TO MOVE!” like it’s your mom and you’re 15 years old? Sadly, your expensive watch-phone is correct. It really is Time To Move.

Physical movement is proven fuel for the creative process. It’s especially good if you’re stuck in a rut or find yourself thinking in endless circles. Take a little jaunt to the front door to check for Amazon bubble packs, search your entire house for your cat, go up the stairs and slide back down inside a sleeping bag (please use caution). Any movement is good movement. Personally, I prefer opening and closing every cabinet in my kitchen twice, as if it will contain a new snack the second time I open it.

There are also some stellar short workout apps that can help (my go-to is Seven). In just a few minutes, you can get your heart rate up, loosen any cranial cogs that seem to have rusted together, and it may even add a couple of days to your life. 

3. How to find inspiration without leaving the neighborhood.

If a few sit-ups or a trip to your spidery basement aren’t enough to get your brain brook a-babbling, this is the part of the article where I tell you to leave the house.

I know it’s not what you want to hear, and I deeply apologize, but sometimes great creative inspiration requires great sacrifice. We’ve already established that moving your body is creative lube for your grey-matter gears, so let’s take it to the next level. 

Exit your property. 

All you need is a walk around your block. Go slowly. Gaze upon things you don’t usually gaze upon. Look up at the sky, down at the grass/concrete/dirt/sand, at a rooftop, into a neighbor’s house, steal their ideas (kidding). The important part is to breathe deep and remember the world is beautiful and gross and full of inspiration.

Where do you find inspiration for your creativity?

Are you still searching for one of those little lightbulbs above your head? Here are four inspirational activities you can try to help you get one.

1. Reading something.

One of the most unlikely places to find creative inspiration is your huge bookshelf half-full of books you haven’t read. Maybe it’s not a bookshelf but a stack of books on your desk. Or a dusty pile of New Yorker magazines in the corner. Maybe it’s a comic book in the bathroom that’s been bloated from years of shower moisture. Or some old magazines your great-uncle gave you that you still haven’t perused.

All I ask is for you to open one up. Any book/magazine/journal/newspaper. I promise there will be a word or phrase or paragraph or photo that will change your state of mind.

2. Watching an old movie.

I know not everybody is about to go subscribe to the Criterion Collection. And that is why you must remember to behold the power of YouTube, for it has clips of all things. There are scenes from incredible films, dance performances, artist installations, seriously, you name it, and it’s there. Your best bet is to search for the genre that coincides with your work, then go watch some bad ads followed by fascinating art. You will absolutely get a big, fat, bright lightbulb.

3. Going to see some art.  

See some live music, visit a gallery, see a play, go to a modern dance performance, watch somebody’s one-man show (if you’re brave). Or try taking a walk in the woods, and when you see a cool leaf or bird, remember that nature is art, too.

4. Going people-watching.

This is my favorite, because it combines a few inspiration techniques: leaving your house, movement, and a change of scenery. Any park, gym, gas station, subway car, museum, or fast food restaurant will do.

Watching live humans interact in the world will give you different ideas than the ones you get from looking at people on a phone screen—and definitely better ideas than if you’re sitting at home wondering why you can’t come up with any ideas.

Fresh air and the energy of being around other people, even at a distance, will always get your neurons firing. And if you want to keep it analog, bring a journal and a pen to jot down all the kick-ass ideas you’re gonna have.

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