Recently, I talked about keeping a commonplace book — a collection of quotes, anecdotes and insights. Another helpful way we can cultivate our creativity is by listing everything that inspires us. This way whenever you need ideas for a blog post, birthday present, work project or just a fun outing, you can return to your list. Whenever you need a pick-me-up, a reminder of the beauty in this world, you can return to your list.
Whenever you’re bored, you can return to your list. Whenever you think creativity is needless or you’ll never be able to create, you can return to your list for some much-needed inspiration.
Plus, the process of creating your list can even spark self-discovery. Because when we pause and consider what inspires us, really think it through, we discover more about ourselves: what interests and excites us; what our needs and passions are. And when you learn all of this, you can incorporate these inspirations into your everyday.
Create a list of 100 things that inspire you. Yes, 100!
Your list might include everything from a favorite blog to a powerful book you reread regularly. It might include certain publications or podcasts. It might include habits or artwork or adventures. It might include specific people or specific tools.
Create your list in a sketchbook. Type it up on your computer. Or write each inspiration on its own index card. If you include a website, pick one inspiring quote or fact to include on the card.
Below is my list of 50 inspirations. Next month I’ll share another list of 50 things.
- Books on drawing, writing or really anything for kids. These books truly help us play and access our imagination. They help us return to a time when creating felt natural, and we didn’t question whether we are creative or not. Because we knew we were.
- The daily rituals and routines of artists, writers, scientists and others.
- Knowing how difficult writing and creating can be. This might seem like a strange thing to inspire someone, but it reminds me that while wonderful and playful and satisfying, the creative process also can be hard. Really hard. It’s a reminder I need when my brain feels empty, I hate my writing, and it takes hours and hours to write a 600-word article.
- Moving my body. Physical activities bring clarity and calm. They help to quiet my racing, jumbled thoughts. They clear away the cobwebs so I can meet my ideas.
- Browsing old bookstores.
- Browsing libraries in big cities or on college campuses.
- The workspaces of artists (like these spaces and these spaces).
- Talking to my husband, who supports my writing and has excellent ideas. Discussing our ideas with someone almost makes them tangible, allowing deeper exploration.
- Answering journal prompts (like these ones and these ones).
- Looking up at the sky, amazed by the vastness and beauty of it all.
- The brilliant website BrainPickings.org.
- My own worries and concerns. So many of my articles for Psych Central are born out of my own worries and concerns. Getting out of your comfort zone. Dealing with rejection. Navigating stubborn self-doubt. Being kind to yourself. Not hating your body.
- Doodling, which helps to shake out my thoughts, and is just really enjoyable.
- Learning how others have learned from their mistakes.
- Learning how others have navigated tragedy and rewritten their stories.
- Following Nat Geo on Instagram.
- Following artists, photographers and writers on Instagram. I love seeing the creative process unfold.
- Sitting in our kitchen nook, looking out at the pool and patio.
- Quotes about creativity, like this one from singer, composer and writer Jenny Hval: “I’m interested in experiencing life differently from the everyday, and creativity is one way to do that. When you create something, you’re making something visceral: you’re actually building a new body for yourself.”
- Seeing a musical, ballet or any kind of dance performance, which reminds me of the beauty and power of the human body.
- Design and decor blogs (like this one and this one).
- Coloring books.
- Dani Shapiro’s blog on writing.
- Austin Kleon’s Tumblr.
- Interviewing others about their creative process, which I did in the series “How I Create.” (Which I’ll be bringing back here on Make a Mess.) For instance, I’ve interviewed Todd Henry, Barbara Abercrombie and Maya Stein.
- The 100 day project.
- TV. Which may be surprising, I know. I love watching everything from The History Channel to HGTV to shows like “Castle” and “Elementary.” I love watching cooking competitions — where people create the most amazing foods while dealing with difficult constraints or culinary curve balls (alliteration also inspires me).
- The colors in nature — of everything from peonies to peacocks.
- Other people creating what they love; what they must. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
- The miracle of our bodies and our senses.
- Etsy. I love browsing the site to see the incredible things people come up with.
- Decorating our home.
- Barbara Abercrombie’s book A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement. This book was actually one of the inspirations for Make a Mess (my forthcoming book with Viva Editions). I loved the idea of turning to any page of a big book and getting a daily dose of inspiration, a gentle nudge to create.
- Being inside a museum. Any museum.
- Graphic and web design. I could look at logos and beautiful websites all day.
- Questions, such as “Why?” and “How” and “What if?”
- Artists’ sketchbooks.
- Newsletters from Anna Guest-Jelley, Jennifer Louden, Mara Glatzel, and Susannah Conway.
- Reading in bed, cozy in my own world and yet entering another.
- E-courses in photography, drawing and journaling.
- The spring, fall and wintertime in New York City. I live in Florida, but when our family lived in New York, we’d visit them several times a year. Even just seeing photos I took of autumn in Central Park is enough to remind me of the magic of Mother Nature.
- Anything by Van Gogh, Degas, Dali and Chagall.
- The smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore.
- The creative ways Christina Rosalie is interpreting circles.
- Found poetry. For instance, in Holocaust poet Charles Reznikoff created poems solely using court records. According to the Amazon description, “Except for the twelve part titles, none of the words here are Reznikoff’s own: instead he has created, through selection, arrangement, and the rhythms of the testimony set as verse on the page, a poem of witness by the perpetrators and the survivors of the Holocaust themselves.”
- Old buildings, old homes.
- This reminder from poet Maya Stein on remembering to write (and really anything she creates).
- Reading about the process and unexpected inspirations behind some of the most creative inventions and discoveries. (Here’s a cool video about the rollercoaster, which was actually invented to curb immorality in America.)
- Magazines such as The Writer, UPPERCASE, Artful Blogging and Smithsonian.
What inspires you to create? What inspires you to play? What sparks your ideas? What ignites your imagination? What are your favorite reads or places to visit? What amazes you?