TOP TIPS FOR CHANGEMAKERS #5
FIND YOUR SPARK
You need inspiration to create. And you need inspiration in order to inspire others. But when your mind has gone blank; when you’re tired; when you’re stressed; when you feel as though you might never be able to come up with an original thought again…how do you fire up your inspiration?
These are my top tips for how to find your spark, how to keep creating. I hope they help you when you’re next in search of your muse.
Take a Break
Staring at that screen is not going to help. Really. The solution is not there. The idea does not dwell behind those pixels. It’s inside you. You’ve just got to find it and you won’t find it looking at that screen. So take a break. Not a procrastination break. You know the kind I mean…the kind of break that starts with…‘I’m just going to quickly flick through Facebook’ or ‘I wonder if the new episode of [insert your favourite Netflix show here] is available yet’. No. This is not THAT kind of break. This is a break with purpose. During this break you are going to do one of the following things in order to clear your head and reconnect with what inspires you.
a) Get outdoors and immerse yourself in nature. Wynn Bullock – a great American photographer – once said “Whenever I have found myself stuck…I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say.” The guy had a good point. The ocean calms and inspires me. It quietens my mind and allows the smaller voices of inspiration, creativity and flow – the ones that get drowned out by all the busyness – to be heard. Whether it’s a walk by the ocean or in the park or simply lying on the grass staring at the clouds in the sky…go and spend some time in the beauty of the world.
b) Consciously listen to music. Now I am going to be quite prescriptive here (shocker…). I am prescribing complex, classical, happy music. Music has been shown to improve cognition, learning and memory and there are now several studies demonstrating that it also enhances creativity. The latest research found that participants who listened to music came up with more ideas in total, and more creative and innovative ideas than those who worked in silence. Mozart is good. But no Requiems or dirges. Sit somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes and immerse yourself in the music.
c) Dance, walk or run. In other words move your body. Exercise. Get out of your head and get a little sweat on. Scientists have shown that exercise stimulates the brain by creating new neurons in the hippocampus. I have no idea what that means but new neurons must be good, right? And I am not a scientist but my extensive research has demonstrated conclusively that if I stop surfing the internet at my desk and dance around my living room instead, I will have 2.75* times more ideas.
Set a deadline
Now this does not work for everyone but it works for me 95% of the time. If I have a deadline to work to – preferably one that somebody else knows about and is relying on – then I will meet it. Who knows why or how. Could be that my inner ‘pleaser’ can’t bear the idea of letting someone down. Could be that the adrenaline surge of an impending deadline creates a simultaneous surge of inspiration. I don’t know. But I do know that if my VA is waiting for a blog from me…and the clock is ticking…it will get written.
Keep a notebook
I have a lot of ‘creator’ energy. I am a generator. That’s just the way my brain works. It sometimes feels a little bit like having an entire flock of butterflies in my head – constantly flapping their wings, flitting from idea to idea. But there are days when all the butterflies have gone to sleep and nothing can wake them up. Not music. Not nature. Not dancing. Not an impending deadline. Nothing. For those days I have my notebook…or more accurately the ‘Notes’ app on my iPhone. When I have an idea I can’t immediately use, I make a note. Even if it’s only the scrap of an idea, an outline, a phrase, a few key words. It goes in the notebook. Then when my brain goes blank and inspiration has fled, I peruse my notes and use something from an earlier time when the butterflies were in full flow.
When I’m looking for hooks for social media content I frequently check out awareness days and current events. This often sparks an idea and gets my creative blood pumping.
Solve a Different Problem
”To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination.” (Albert Einstein)
Einstein was a wise old bird. He also said that you can’t solve a problem with the same energy that created it. Here’s how I interpret this in the context of creativity: when your mind is caught in a loop over a blog ‘What shall I write…I can’t think of anything to write…what do I have to say?’ the chances are, you are not going to think of a blog idea. So solve a different problem instead. Write some social media posts. Sketch out a speech. Outline the first chapter of your book. Draft some ideas for Facebook Lives or for that course you want to create.
Give your brain a shiny new object to work on for 15 minutes. No more. This is not about procrastination. This is about changing the energy in your brain and getting some momentum. Show yourself that you can solve a different problem and then come back to your blog (or whatever your original task was) with a resurgent creative energy.
Other people’s words
There is one last thing that I do to find a spark: I have a Pinterest board with hundreds of inspirational quotes in it. If all else fails I will spend some time browsing that board and somehow the right quote always jumps out and kickstarts something in my brain.
Let’s ACTUALLY change the world!
*This is an estimate. Results cannot be guaranteed. It might depend on your music choice. And whether you have rhythm.
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