Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Photos by Kaila Gallacher
One thing that many artists and writers struggle with is that (sometimes) elusive and evasive feeling of inspiration that allows us to fully embody the creative process, yet the idea that we have to wait for inspiration is not always accurate. The key to being a successful writer (or creative) is to write, to create—it’s that simple and that complicated. Write, even when inspiration feels lacking. Write when you’re in the flow. Try and write when you're out of it. Just write (or create). I don’t believe that inspiration is as elusive as we make it out to be, in fact, I believe that it’s something, given enough patience and persistence, and appropriate circumstances, we can choose to tap into it at any time. I mention circumstances because there will be times in life when we are unable to create or to write due to life getting in the way. But, below are some ways we can choose to seek out inspiration when we are able to. While there is much to be said about the rather outdated concept of the “muse” and much more to say on the subject of that special kind of inspiration that moves through us as creators, writers, and artists; the most valuable lesson we can learn is that we don’t have to sit and wait around for inspiration to strike. Sometimes, we can chase it.
Experiment and Practice
Experimenting widely with various diverse techniques, and getting out of your comfort zone, can give your writing and creativity a boost and stay inspired. It can bring out more room to create in different ways given different constraints. When you’re feeling stuck with a piece of writing or a creative project, sometimes the best thing (the only thing) you can do is to put it aside. Yet, sometimes when we're stuck in a rut the best way to break out of it is to, ironically, recreate a feeling of confinement within our work. What I mean by this is that if we're struggling with a work of fiction, we must put that particular piece aside. Go for a walk, get out of that headspace, then sit down again, and create something new. If you're stuck working on a short story, write some flash fiction. Try to tell a story in 500 words! If you’re struggling with a free-verse poem, put it aside, and try writing a blackout poem! Work on something new that will take time, make you think differently, and inspire you. Force yourself to create in a different atmosphere and form.
Write or creating something very structured and form heavy. The main reason this can help cultivate a sense of inspiration is that when we give ourselves a set space in which we have to work on something our minds are given parameters that force us to be active in finding new patterns or stories in different forms. This is why prompts, writing or creating based on specific given themes, can be so very useful to someone who is stuck in a rut. The experience of writing a blackout poem alone can help unlock new thought patterns which allow for new and creative ideas to take root because we are forced to look at specific words to create personal meaning. Challenge yourself to tell a story with as few words or convey a message through art in a distinct way. Explore what you can create when you are stuck within the confines of structure or a set limit of words. The same can be done with photography or any other art discipline because there are always ways we can create limits within our work.
"Challenge yourself to tell a story with as few words or convey a message through art in a distinct way."
Explore New Mediums
We, Creatives, Humans, animals are absolutely blessed because we have the ability to express ourselves in a multitude of ways. Though there are limits to everything, in another sense we are free. Free to try as many different mediums as we can as often as we can. So, challenge yourself to create in ways you don't normally do. Paint, write, draw, dance, play around with creating worlds, or capturing feelings through photography. Despite popular opinion, we don’t just have to force ourselves into a “What I Can Do” box. Of course, when, as creatives, we are Perfectionists with a capital P, the hardest part of allowing ourselves to express ourselves in new, scary, and unexplored ways is to accept that there will be growing pains. We have to choose to accept and learn to celebrate that playing around in a new medium means we may not get the immediate results we desire. We won’t be perfect at it. But perfection is relative and arbitrary. Giving ourselves permission to experiment and try new modes of expression is the most precious and transformative gifts we can give ourselves as writers and creatives. Refuse to accept being boxed into a specific “art”—yes, you are a writer or a painter or a poet, but that does not mean you are only a writer, a painter, or a poet. There’s no denying that each of us has a special affinity to specific art forms, but that doesn't have to limit us only to them.
Depending on the person, and one’s abilities/capabilities, there will things that you are more passionate about and more able to do, but that don't mean you can’t explore a new medium and new way of expressing yourself. Do it for the sole purpose of discovering something new, of finding out more about your process. Do it to learn more about yourself, your abilities, and your process. There will be things we can’t do, for example, I have specific disabilities that make doing certain activities, such as prolonged fine painting (which by necessity requires hours of intricate hand-movements), a painful and difficult process. It is basically impossible to do this given my limits, but just because I am not able to recreate a master study of Picasso does not mean that my ability to use acrylic paints in less intricate and more experimental ways within my own art (or mixed-media) journal is any less valid than portrait painting. Don’t stick yourself within one art and become so entrenched in it you are afraid of trying something new. Each mode of expression offers us a unique and beautiful way to express what is distinctly us and distinctly human, so whatever mode of creation you feel you are drawn to, try something outside of it. No matter how it turns out, you will learn something new and gain valuable insight into yourself, and you will remain inspired to break out of a rut.