18 Ways to Stay Inspired Creatively
As a work at home mom in the arts it can be hard to stay inspired creatively. I remember back in high school and college staying up late at night working on art projects and spending hours at a coffee shop totally focused on something I was writing. These days I rarely have that luxury. Sure I could sacrifice sleep, but when you have barely slept in 5 years raising three babies you can only stay up so late at night or get up so early without going crazy!
I find I go through waves of being really inspired and then periods of nothingness where I can't find anything that speaks to me creatively. I think this is fairly normal for artists but if you add in the monotony of day to day stay at home momming and lack of interaction with adults it can get downright frustrating and depressing.
I always feel more alive, excited, fresh, happy, and well creative, when I am looking at and doing things that INSPIRE me. Sometimes out of nowhere I will have a lightning bolt of inspiration but more often it comes as a result of some motion I took, some opening myelf up to let something new in. I have realized that since becoming a mom it is important that I take an active role in pursuing these things so that I don't get stuck in a funk. I've assembled a list of some of my favorite ways to stay inspired in hopes that it can help you to refresh and get back to your important creative work as well!
Learning and gaining new perspectives and insights is so important in spurring on new ideas. Reading books, magazines, workbooks, and blogs is one way to encourage creativity. Some of my favorite recent reads are: Big Magic, Playing Big, The Desire Map, Leonie Dawsons workbooks, Bella Grace Magazine, and The Rainbow Way. I am ALWAYS looking for new inspiring books so I would love to hear your favorites! If you have some to share write them in the comments below.
Gathering visual inspiration that you can come back to in the future can be really fun. Use Pinterest to create mood boards, quotes on art and creativity, color schemes, and more; the possibilities really are endless! The important thing to keep in mind is to stay focused. It's easy to get off track and waste lot of time on Pinterest so make a plan for specific things you want to focus on before you get pinning. You can find some of my inspirational Pinterest Boards HERE
Whether it is hearing the journey of other artists, learning some business tips, or learning skills from mentors in your field, listening to people share their stories can be a powerful way to be encouraged and generate new ideas for your own work. A couple of my current favorite podcasts are WOOLFUL and PROFIT. POWER. PURSUIT.
Set a mood to get you into a good creative space. Think of the project you are working on and what message you want to communicate through that and match your music to that mood. For example if I am working on a bright color work design upbeat and fun dance music will put me in the right mental space. If I am wanting to create a lacy, romantic top I will choose some folk or music that makes me feel pretty and desirable since that how I want knitters to feel working on and wearing that design!
Back before I had an account of my own, I wanted a smart phone solely for Instagram. I have gotten so much inspiration from just browsing for beauty. Searching for hashtags in your genre or more generic ones can be a breath of fresh air. Just looking at inspiring images can have a way of making us feel creative before we have even taken steps to create! Many of us with a passion for creating are introverts but even if that is true we need each other for inspiration which brings me to my next source...
6: Engage in a Community of Makers
Unfortunately I don't have many "real life" friends who are creative professionals so the internet has been a huge outlet and support for me. Instagram, Facebook, and Ravelry groups are all ways to connect with the knitting and spinning community (or any creative community you want to be a part of). In the future I hope to be able to attend art/ knitting retreats like Squam, and Knitting with Company (there are so many others a quick google search should get you a whole list to chose from). Often at these events you are able to meet mentors in your field and learn from them directly, have lots of time to engage with other makers, and enjoy some time to yourself to create.
7: Journaling/ Art Journal
One thing I used to spend A LOT of time doing before I had kids was keeping sketchbooks or art journals. This was a place I could work out my thoughts, paint, collage with my photographs and more. With art journals you don't have to be a top notch artist, they are just for you! Track your growth, explore the deep questions, and dig into the WHY behind how you're feeling. Being self reflective can open your eyes to new truths about yourself. A couple of my absolute favorite artists who encouraged and inspired my art journaling are Dan Eldon and Sabrina Ward Harrison. Again a simple google search will give you endless ideas for art journaling.
8: Go to an Art Festival
If you want to get off of the computer and out in the REAL world go to an art festival! For me that means a fiber festival were I can see loads of wool, yarn, and sheep! There are art and craft festivals EVERYWHERE and they take place throughout the year. So no matter what "thing" you're into you are bound to find some awesome gatherings near you. At craft fairs you can take in the creative beauty around you, meet artists and learn about their work which can often inspire you to create new things.
9: Alone Time
If the chorus of bickering toddlers and crying babies isn't exactly getting your creative juices flowing, try taking some time to yourself. As a mom of three young kids this one thing can refresh me and open me up to inspiration that I wouldn't get with 2 weeks straight of being surrounded by my kids! Take time to meditate, breathe, or just sit in silence and see what comes to you. I rarely get this time before bedtime so when I do I really SAVOR it!
9: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Sometimes all you need is a little push. Try something totally new, or tough, or agree to do something that intimidates you. Push yourself and you may be surprised what you can accomplish. One thing I have started doing is submitting a few designs to knitwear magazines/ yarn companies. I haven't landed a publication yet, and maybe I never will, but forcing myself to just go for it has generated a lot of new ideas as well as taken the fear of failure away. You will never know if you can achieve something until you try and the worst that can happen is that you fail. I think its always better to try and fail than never try at all!
10: Keep Lists
Take some time to do a brain dump or mapping activity. Free your brain of all the excess clutter to open up yourself to new ideas and possibilities. Also use lists to keep track of all your random thoughts and tasks you need to accomplish any given day. When you write down everything on your mind you won't be worried about forgetting things and you will be more relaxed and aware of new ideas as they come. While I've always been a list maker, the Book Getting Things Done really taught me this lesson and helped me be more organized in my list making. I keep lists (just simple stacks of post it notes) by my bed, in the car, in the kitchen, in my gym bag, and attached to whatever book I'm reading. That way wherever I am I won't miss out on an idea.
11: Engage Your Senses with Self Care
Nothing kills creativity like stress! Create a comforting atmosphere and your body will relax and be open to new ideas. Breathe in a favorite scent; scent is tied to memory and has the ability to realx us (my favorite is lavender). Drink a hot drink from a cozy mug. I really believe holding and indulging in a hot cup of coffee can have a magical effect. Take a Bath or Shower to literally refresh yourself and begin again with a blank slate. Or go get your body moving, which brings me to my next source...
You may be wondering what on earth exercise has to do with creativity but stick with me. Exercise can offer an incredible release. I don't know if I have ever felt the "runner's high" (I HATE running) but other forms of exercise have allowed my body to get rid of excess negative energy and clear my mind. Once I have a good sweat I am usually in a much better mood to focus and rework a problem. I also can't tell you how many times I've thought of great ideas while at Yoga or on the elliptical at the Y which is why I always keep a notebook with me (#10 Lists).
13: Step Back and Take The Pressure Off
Sometimes we honestly just put too much pressure on ourselves to achieve and when we don't live up to our expectations we get totally down and stuck in self loathing. I am no stranger to this unfortunately. When this happens it can help to take a break from your craft. Remove deadlines or slow down. When you are refreshed and ready inspiration will return.
14: Capture Images
Keep your camera or phone with you to snap photos of surprise little inspirations as you come across them in daily life. Maybe its the way a tile pattern comes together, a certain color combination, or architecture as you are on a walk in the city. Grab that image that strikes you and file it away somewhere. Don't be worried about what it will be used for just keep it somewhere safe so you can draw from it later. I once drew color inspiration for a design from my son's onsie!
15: Personal Projects
When you are a maker and making becomes a burden try something new. Engaging in a totally unrelated craft from what you normally do can have a renewing effect. We all love our craft of choice but sometimes its good to take time to foster the love of creating just for the sake of creating. I intentionally aim to do one "personal project" a month where I make something new or just for me (not to go in the shop). I don't always get around to it but I am so glad when I do.
16: Take a Class
There is nothing like learning from others and we all have SO MUCH to learn! Take a Knitting Class at your LYS or try out a business class at your local community college. If time and money is an issue (which it totally is for me) try an online class on Craftsy, Skillshare, or Creative Live. You can often get a joiners discount on these types of classes for a period of time and can save them to re-watch at a later time. There are also endless free webinars out there that you can tune into.
17: Work Backwards
Often we work on a project with the final result in mind and get stuck trying to figure out how to create that. Try thinking of a feeling or emotion that you want to come across through your work and move backward thinking of different ways that that emotion is evoked in you. For example If you want your art to communicate a free lighthearted feeling, maybe running on the beach, dancing in your underwear, or just doing something to make yourself laugh will elicit that response in you and give you new ideas on how to pass that along through your work.
18: Generate Your Own List of Ideas!
To inspire creativity for yourself try doing this as an exercise for yourself. Personalize it as a reference for when you're having a crumby day creatively and you need a re-start. Make it into a collage to hang up on your wall or keep a running list somewhere visible and when you need some inspiration and aren't sure where to start check out your list and pick one to try!
What activities inspire you? I would love to hear from you if there are other things/ books/ resources etc. that you use as inspiration. If you would like to share (and I really hope you do) please leave a comment below so we can all benefit from your experience!