“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” Dr. Seuss
Inspiration. Where does it come from? What helps it to flow? What allows it to get stuck? How can it be unstuck? The famous fashion designer, Donatella Versace, states, “Inspiration is continuous in an artist. It’s all around them.” We believe this to be true. It is part of their genetic makeup, but there are times when things in life get in the way of that artistic flow. The mind becomes extremely noisy and inspiration seems to get plugged up and appears to be out of immediate reach.
One of the first things that we need to be aware of is that inspiration doesn’t have to come from the extraordinary. It can be realized from the ordinary in our everyday. Over the years, we have witnessed creatives throw in the towel due to their perceived inspiration drought.
In his undergraduate speech, football coach, Lou Holtz exclaimed that there are only seven colors in the rainbow, but look what Michelangelo did with seven colors. There are only seven music note names, listen to what Beethoven did with those. Then we have the wisdom of Solomon to grab onto. He states in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun.
With the above knowledge in hand, inspiration isn’t that hard to acquire if we realize it already exists in abundant supply. Quite profound, isn’t it? This should actually provide you with a huge sigh of relief. You don’t have to create something new, you just have to rearrange what has previously been fashioned in a different way. You already have all of the ingredients, you just have to tweak the recipe a bit.
Focus and research groups are a great way to find out what other’s do when faced with a dilemma. Practicing what we preach, we asked a group of songwriters where their inspiration comes from, here is what they wrote.
“I write about other people’s lives because I get stuck when I write about my own.” Gina
“My morning study of scripture usually gives me creative ideas or triggers tunes I use or themes I’ll develop later”. Kirk
“Write everything down. No censoring til later. Let the mind explore without limits. God does end up in my works as He is the core of my life, but all the stuff around me can make me go “Oh, now there’s an idea!” Jim
“I’ve been very inspired by bad news reports and urgent issues that need addressing. The Bible says that God’s people will DO great & mighty exploits in these types of tragic, terrorist and sordid atmospheres.” Anita
“I go on long walks and pray for people … often get song ideas then or definitely when reading a devotional book or doing Bible study.” Diana
“Honestly, my trials. Well…seeking God while in trials. Times when I am reaffirming to the Lord and myself that I trust Him no matter what. Trials are plenteous and can be capitalized upon to birth some good songs.” Sandy
“Sometimes I inspire myself. I try to make it a point to do a random act of kindness every day. Asking the guy with car trouble if he needs help. Holding the door open for someone on crutches. Helping an old lady get something from a high shelf. You get the idea. Make someone else’s day a little easier. These actions are so easy to do.” Bill
“I think the key is to always have a “listening ear” at all times. Some days you sit down to write and it can be a chore to muster up everything you have inside you to just squeeze out a drop of creative originality. Inspiration can appear at the most unexpected times…cleaning the house, going to the recycle center, out on lunch break in the town. Life gives birth to life….whether you go out and get into the mix or you walk through the normal days activities…be forever listening.”
Be forever listening. What a great piece of advice. To listen, though, one must be silent. Find a way to get rid of the noise that zaps creativity and inspiration. (Isn’t it amazing that the same letters in the word listen are also in the word silent. Hmmm…Only in the English language.) Sometimes, the quieter you become, the more you can hear.
So how can you prime the pump for inspiration to flow? Here is a list of 10 things that you can do to get things moving.
1. Give yourself a break. Stop beating yourself up when inspiration is not around the corner. Celebrate how far you’ve come versus the distance yet to go. The great thing about this world is that it is filled with corners. There is always a next one, somewhere along the path. Inspiration is just around one of them.
2. Color. Yes, you read that right. Grab an adult coloring book. Put your mind on something else other than the task at hand. Believe it or not, psychiatrists have been prescribing coloring as a method of relaxation and focus for over 100 years. It allows the fear center of your brain to relax and it trains your brain to focus, not to mention how much it relaxes the entire body. Go ahead, just try it.
3. Free Journal Writing. Disconnect for a while and write in a journal without any direction in mind. Just write, even if it doesn’t make sense to you at the time. Let your mind play. Do this for at least 15 minutes to a half-hour. Then when you have finished, go back and read what you wrote. Look for the nuggets in your writing. Mark them with a yellow highlighter.
4. Look around you. Take in everything that you can and then close your eyes. Picture 10 things that you remember seeing. Don’t stop until you get to 10. When you open your eyes, write them down. eg. A young mom readjusting her daughters hair in a ponytail. Raindrops falling onto a car window creating a world of its own. Runners stopping to catch their breath. A bunch of straws in a waitresses pocket. Footprints on a muddy path. Isn’t it amazing what you see when stop long enough to realize what you saw? Inspiration begins to flow vividly.
5. Catch and stop. Don’t hurry inspiration. Hold onto the first thing that comes to your mind. Look at it. Turn it over. Dissect it. Think about how many ways it can be viewed, inside, outside, upside and downside.
6. Memories. Make a list of 10 memories. Good, bad or ugly. Create a story line around them. Write down the nuances of what you see. Read between the lines. There are always stories within the story.
7. Partake in Media. Read a new book once a week. Listen to a song at least once a day. Watch a short video. Read a magazine article. Take a look at what’s in the news. What are your opinions on what you see? How do they affect you? How do they affect the world? What does the bible say about what you have read?
8. Others. Even though the best source of inspiration is you, reach out to others with some questions. Listen to their answers. Look for things you didn’t notice the first time around.
9. Listen. Take a ride to the mall and find a place to sit. Close your eyes and just listen. What do you hear? What do you think you hear? Let your imagination run wild. Write down your experience. How was your audio different from the visual?
10. Begin. Once inspiration shows its tail, don’t wait for the rest of the body to show up. Just get started. Grab onto that tail and let it take you where it may. Doing something gives you a better view into where you are going and how to do it, then doing nothing. When you begin, that takes the gear out of the stuck position into drive. Not telling where you will end up! The journey is pure excitement in itself! Let that wind begin to blow through your hair.
Ok, now it is time to wow and dazzle the world with your inspiration. If you sincerely took all of the above to heart, you will now be ‘unstuck’ and eager to plug in. Inspiration is waiting to be discovered. Once it is, creativity takes on a life of its own, passion ensues and you find yourself able to do amazing things. Inspiration brings hope. Once we know we have hope, all bets are off. Anything can be done! We can’t wait to hear how these exercises worked for you. Here’s to a New Year filled to the brim with inspiration.
Creatively His, Keith and Sue Mohr
Keith and Sue Mohr
MOHR CREATIVE GROUP
Keith Mohr and Sue Ross-Mohr of “The Mohr Creative Group” have years of experience serving independent Christian artists, musicians and songwriters. Keith founded www.indieheaven.com in 2002, the leading portal for Christian independent music. Sue Ross-Mohr founded www.theinnervizion.com in 2003, a creative promotions /marketing/ consulting service to individuals and companies worldwide.