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5 Ways to Find Inspiration When You *Literally* Have None

art creativity inspiration work habits

Inspiration for me tends to come and go in waves. Some times I have more ideas that I can possibly work through and other days I have nothing. It’s tough to constantly be inspired 24/7. People sometimes have this view of artists in their head that we are these people with our heads in the clouds and more ideas floating around than we could ever complete and we are endless fountains of creativity. Well, sometimes that it true, but sometimes the fountain runs dry. And what makes creatives special is that we don’t let that stop us from working. So here are my five tips for finding inspiration when you *literally* have none (please read that in a Chris Traeger voice).

1. If you’re a visual person: write. If you’re a writer: draw.

Switch it up, but keep it old fashioned with a pen or pencil hitting the paper. Keep the creativity flowing, but do it in a different way than usual. One of my professors told me, the more you write about your art, the more you learn about the work and yourself. Write about the last piece you finished or the last piece you liked. Write why you liked it and what made it “successful” by whatever definition of success suits you. Also, write in cursive. Cursive has so many benefits for your brain, from helping you have a more connected way of thinking and making connections between different ideas to also helping you see words as abstract concepts instead of individual letters. I won’t continue to belabor the benefits of cursive here, but if you want to know more, I would be happy to direct you to many studies lauding the old way of writing.

2. Look for shows to apply to

I use CallforEntry.org and it is full of listings of places looking for work. You can sort it out by state or region or type of work. Each of the calls lists the specifics for the work they are looking to admit and often themed shows have suggestions or guidelines. It’s what saved me from the post-grad slump. The summer after I finished my honors thesis, I was completely drained. This was when I was coming of the exhaustion and simultaneous high that was the #100womenproject and I didn’t know how I could ever top that. Well, I saw a listing for a show of works that were all 10x10x10 inches and after creating something that was so massive, scaling back and making something that could fit in my lap seemed so refreshing. I had no idea how it was going to go, but I figured it was worth a shot and I applied and was accepted! A few days later I was mailing my smallest fiber piece all the way to Tieton, Washington! If I had not seen that call, I don’t know how long I would have been lost figuring out what to do next. Now I find the prompts for juried shows to be exciting creative challenges and I often come up with ideas I never would have thought of without that prompt. 

3. Get outside

Take a walk, go for a hike, check out your local botanical garden. If this is your first day on my blog, you might not be aware of how much I love flowers; if you’ve been around for awhile now, this is old news to you. But if you’re stuck, grab your sketchbook and head outdoors (weather permitting). In Charlotte, we have mountains a short drive away and when I lived in Richmond the river was walking distance. If you have a local park with a great view, check it out. Urban landscapes can be equally inspiring! The cool tones and interesting architecture might be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing again! Also, the fresh air never hurts. Sometimes I think I get stuck inhaling paint fumes or stitching endlessly and clearing my head outside helps to get my brain moving. I love to talk a walk with my husband to talk through ideas that have been brewing in my head and chatting them through with another person often brings clarity to something that seemed fuzzy. I also walk my cat, which is a fun distraction. 

4. Look at art

I love going to small museums where you can walk through each gallery slowly and really enjoy the art that is there. Whenever I go to a big museum, I usually end of feeling overwhelmed by how large it is and trying not to get lost. If you have a small museum in your area, I would highly recommend just going for an afternoon with no plan in mind. Walk through the galleries slowly and stop and look closely at any work that you like.

My other favorite place to find new art is Instagram. I am actually all around pretty obsessed with Instagram (but who isn't at this point?) It’s beautiful, clean and I follow some pretty cool people so my feed is always filled with striking images. My favorite people to look at when I’m in need of some inspiration have to be @heatherdayart, @amyventures, @_wildhumm, @meandering_mari, @myfriendcourt and @wildplumco just to name a few, but I could go on for hours. It’s refreshing to open the app and scroll through and see what other people are up to and creating. Whenever I see something beautiful and colorful that someone has posted, it encourages me to get up and get creating as well!

5. Just work on something

There is that quote that everyone has seen on the internet that says "inspiration finds you working" and this is more true than I would have realized a few years ago. I've developed a daily sketchbook habit and showing up everyday and knowing that I will sketch something is important. Even when I feel like I have no ideas whatsoever for even a sketch, it is so important to just show up. You'll never get better at your craft if you don't work at it. I love taking my sketchbook with me to the museum or when we go hiking. I bring sewing in the car on road trips and I'm just trying to work on something every single day. 

How do you work through creative block? Let me know in the comments!

-Amy


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