Oh, for the love of inspiration! What to do when you have none?
It happens to the best of us. The dry well. The flatline. The clenching fear of nothingness. The lack of inspiration. Whether from burnout or just plain-old “hey-I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-for-this-project/client” syndrome, creativity sometimes takes a backseat to other things in our lives. The question remains? How do you re-spark that light? Here are some of the things I do to recharge my brain cells.
1. Walk away
That’s right. Just walk away. So you’ve been staring at the screen or your sketchbook for the past 12 hours? Just walk away. Put on your shoes (assuming you had none on), grab your coat and take a stroll. Walk to a local park. Walk up and down the city (or town, in my case) block. Hop on your bike and find a new path to explore. Just get away from your computer for a bit. Facebook will only distract for so long and it’s not helping you get any clever, new ideas, so just unplug for a bit and step away from the maddening crowd. Alone with your thoughts, chances are the inspiration will reignite and you can get back to business.
My god I love libraries. I call them my natural habitat. Why, you ask? On those shelves are worlds of possibilities. I like to choose a section at random, meander down an aisle and grab a few books on some subject I know nothing about. What better way to revv up your creative juices than to explore a completely new subject. Bookstores are also useful for this too. Heavens bless the bargain bins!
Talk it out. Find someone, anyone and just talk about your project. Chances are you’ve just stared at it, thought about it for just a little too long. Find a friend, a fellow designer, a partner, an unwilling suspect at the convenience store line (may want to not do that last one, fyi) and tell them about your project, show them your sketches and see what they think. I do this all the time and have found my parents to be great design sounding boards. While they are not designers, they see the world differently than I do and through free flow conversation on the project, my loose ends tend to wind back up and I’m recharged and ready to go…with new points of view!!
4. Blogs/WeHeartIt/Pinterest/and the like
As much as I have a love/hate with social media, there are some aspects that are just divine. The ideas generated online are mind-blowing (don’t think about the vast quantity of ideas out there, your head may explode!!) and it’s there for the idea generating. Look up new blogs. Search for design inspiration on Pinterest. Look up letterpress on weheartit.com. One site I’ve been loving lately is the website grain edit. Tons of info, great ideas, lovely layout. This will for sure help get you out of your funk.
I think one thing that befuddles us is when we forget that the computer is our tool. Use it like a tool. Research on it, sketch on it, but don’t depend solely on it. Find new pictures, print them out, glue them in a sketchbook, flip through it, sketch out new ideas. Find new color schemes, new actions or brushes. The computer is our tool, use it as such! Have fun with it and the ideas will flow! (may as well grab a cup of tea or coffee as well to enjoy the ride)
Wait, what? Have I already mentioned books? Well, I’m going to mention it again. There are fabulous design inspiration books out there. Some of my favorites are Caffeine for the Creative Mind by Stefan Mumaw, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen your Design Skills by David Sherwin, and Graphic Design Thinking by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips. AIGA hosted an event on this a year or so ago (webinar if you’re a member of AIGA and want to search the archives for it. I would but yeah, not right now) and the variety of brainstorming processes was fabulous. I incorporated many of the techniques in my classes after watching/reading about it.
I also love Fingerprint: The Art of Using Hand-Made Elements in Graphic Design by Chen Design Associates and Michael Mabry. I LOVE mixing media within design and that’s a great resource on it. If you like these, you may also like Stefan Bucher’s 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-it-Yoursellf Guide to Insight, Survival and Artist Fulfillment (whew that’s a mouthful!) new book that is at once both interactive and introspective. A great resource!
Here’s a sample from Bucher’s book:
344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment by Stefan Bucher
So, if you’re in a rut, there are ways to get out of it. Life “things” and work “things” sometimes blur the lines of our lives but the inspiration is there for the taking. Research, books, walks, taking a break, coffee, tea, talking. Try a little of each and see what works best for you. Chances are your inspirational muse is sitting right beside you, arching their eyebrow at you wondering why you couldn’t hear them. :)