I decided to write this post after I made the same mistake several times in the last few weeks. While out walking, shopping for food, working out or being engaged in other work an idea for an article, or a chapter in the book I dream of writing, pops into my head and words just start rushing through me like a motorcycle screaming down an empty desert highway. In these moments I often made the mistake of thinking: Let me just finish what I am doing right now and then I’ll sit down and write. Big mistake! Once I found time to sit down and write the inspiration was gone and I would just stare at the screen in front of me, unable to produce a single word.
Steve Jobs once said, on the topic of creativity: ‘When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it. They just saw something.’ I can really relate tho this phenomena because inspiration often feels like it didn’t come from within. Instead it feels like I momentarily tapped into a creative source and I become a channel for creative thought to flow right through me. At this moment I am simply the vessel for a certain idea to be born. But when I don’t follow the flow I lose connection with this creative source again.
The word inspiration comes from the latin word inspirare which literally means ‘breathe into’ or ‘infuse animation or influence’, especially through divine influence. In other words, to be ‘in spirit’. Similarly the word enthusiasm comes from the greek word entheos, meaning ‘possessed by a god’. Both of these words origin point to a concept of being influenced by a creative source.
Now whether you are a writer, a poet, a musician, a designer, an artist or a creator of some kind I am sure you can both recognize the feeling of being in this flow and perhaps also the notion of losing touch with that same stream and standing in front of your canvas, screen, microphone or paper completely blocked to the ideas that seemed obvious to you just a short while ago. I myself have spent countless hours with writer’s block and I think most of you know exactly how this feels…Not great!
After falling in this trap several times lately I decided that I didn’t want to lose more great ideas this way. As a way of capturing inspiration/creativity as soon as it comes I devised two different actions for myself. If your creative endeavour is important to you and, like me, you sometimes let good ideas slide away from you, here are two tips that might help you.
- Drop whatever you are doing at that moment and give into the flow of inspiration. I understand that this is not practical in all situations (don’t drop the baby/client/crying friend!), but then at least try to document as much of the flow as possible. Write your thoughts down, make a video/voice recording on your phone, scribble down a sketch or whatever you need to do to capture the connection so you can find your way back to it later. The more detailed you can document your train of thought, the better it will serve to help you reconnect later.
- Try to see how the connection happened in the first place. What are the external factors? Are you in a specific place? Are you in a specific mindset? What was the spark of the creativity? A song, an article, a conversation with a friend (or a stranger)? If you can remember the conditions that got you to this creative flow you can try to recreate it later. Sometimes I even notice a larger pattern that can help me overcome blockages in the future. Maybe you always get your good ideas while singing in the shower, half-sleeping on the train or listening to certain music while wistfully gazing out your bedroom window, but you never paid attention or attribute to the internal & external conditions that opens you up to creativity?
Just writing all this in a post has really helped me to capture those moments more consistently in my life, and I hope it might help you as well! If you have any other tips about inspiration or creativity, feel free to leave a comment below so all the creative souls (that’s everyone, right?) can benefit from your wisdom too.