Monday, September 22, 2014

Exposure to Inspiration in 12 Activities

"So… have you started that cool story, yet?"
"Ah, no. I'm still waiting for inspiration."
Looks familiar? Seems to me that it's happening dangerously often and not only in writing. It's cross-field. It happens to anyone who is creating something.

I don't think inspiration is something you wait for. I believe it's something you let yourself exposed to.

At some point in your creational process, you'll be in a cloud of fog and you won't be able to make much sense of it. It will feel like being lost in a boundless place where crumbs of incomplete ideas and concepts swirl around chaotically, without connecting. It's not a fun place to be in and if you stay for too long it may start nibbling at your peace of mind.

In this place, you'll feel a thirst for the new, for freshness, for ideas and concepts to connect within yourself so that the fog can melt away so you can resume your creative process. This effect may be achieved by taking a vacation type of break in which you get out of your comfort zone and destroy routine and tasteless monotony. But not everyone can always afford a vacation in the middle of work. So here's my idea - a collection of 12 activities that expose you to inspiration.

1. Look at wallpapers from different categories (abstract, fantasy, nature, animals, motorcycles, logos, symbols, mythology, sports - anything you can think of both known and unknown to you) and put aside the ones that seem to resonate with you (to see for later). Follow your first instinct as you scroll through the pictures so as to avoid saving more than you really like.

2. Listen to music and make a playlist with those songs that resonate with you. I've noticed that chill remixes have a healthy impact during the beginning of the foggy times. (the ending of a foggy period usually escalates in intensity and you might feel the need to listen to blood rising rhythms or strong messaged songs according to the state of spirit).

3. Get a relaxation massage. It does wonders for those that work at the desk. As you lock your body in the writing / coding / reading position and don't move for hours, lumps of blood are formed on your back and cause pain and stiffness. A relaxation massage will warm your back and clear those lumps. When you get off the massage table you'll feel like you can do a back flip.

4. Travel to places you are less familiar with like parts of the city you don't normally pass by while going to work or school. If you live in a big, crowded city, visiting an island for a while and seeing how the people live there will refresh you dearly. It doesn't have to be something expensive. There are many wonderful places to see on a low budget. City breaks are precious jewels of opportunity and many are inexpensive. Experience different cultures and learn about the customs. You'll find some similar customs with your own culture and customs that don't exist in your culture and so on. At the end of your journey you'll see how elements from your travel will start to unconsciously squeeze into your work.

5. Visit places near you like museums, parks, lakes, cafes, galleries, toy shops, gift shops, libraries, interior design stores, Feng Shui stores, gardening shops (anything that has many interesting objects on display such as statues and useful, funny looking objects). You don't need to buy anything, just feast your eyes. As you ride the bus, look at the architecture of the buildings around you (you don't have to be an expert or identify any artistic current, just look at the design).

6. Take improvisation classes - the personal development games in improvisation teach you a lot about yourself by simply letting you find out how you react in a certain situation. It's a good way of figuring out if you're mentally stuck on something that's blocking your creative process… or revealing some other hidden fear for that matter.

7. Rearrange your working room. If you have many books in this room, you can try building a standing desk for example or any other thing that you can somehow use. You can rearrange your desk or laptop or working spot or the object on your desk (statues, post cards, mugs, skeletons). You can make statues from empty cans of your favorite drink. You can make shapes from the pins on your board. These are interior design ideas for DIY (do it yourself) objects that help better organize interior space. I've noticed that having a place for each object you use helps at cleaning the fog… and the room.

8. Meet new people. This always adds a wave of welcomed freshness. Visit a community that focuses on a sport / game / activity you like (e.g: reading, writing, Go, chess, self development, tennis, dungeons and dragons, computer games, public speaking, storytelling, tech hub meetings, scuba diving, mounting hiking, climbing, a boot camp on leadership etc.). Doing the activity you really love (that is usually procrastinated savagely) is a way of keeping the fog away simply because you're doing something that really makes you happy. And you can't be blocked in this because it's your groove.

9. Shatter monotony to pieces. Avoid the patterns you usually take time and time again (e.g: a talk about earrings / nutrition / mountain goats / swimming / origami with a friend that loves the topic, even if this topic has never interested you). You'll be surprised at the new concepts you'll find out and you will have practiced keeping an open mind. Don't shove off things you don't know just because you've never met them in school or at work. We learn while we live - this means we learn even after we leave school. Get used to the feeling of not knowing and embrace it instead of fleeing away from it. If you run away or close your mind to the new, the fog will get thicker. If you stay open, more things will connect and new ideas will take shape - some even immediately implementable. You can replace monotony with healthy habits that guard your mind against the fog.

10. Move your body. Practice a sport as lightly and as often as you like. It can be riding your bike in the park in the morning or kick boxing if it's more to your liking. Or simply going for a walk. The thing is to move because moving your body will clear your mind of pestering debris.

11. Read books and articles that help your creative process - be it fiction or self development or watercolor picture books.

12. Play! a game (board game, video game, improv game etc), an instrument, a prank (be nice), charades etc. Go play board games in the cafes that provide them. Gather friends for a talk and some fun. Go to adventure parks and ride the zip line over the lake. Watch a fantasy movie.
We learn by doing and by experiencing and what better way of doing than playing (at least in the beginning so as not to get hurt). If you want to be a CEO and you've barely begun researching what it means and what one must do to achieve it, you might want to see for yourself how you react to this in a business simulation. If you dream to climb mountains, visit the climbing wall for training first. In playing, you still get to do what you wish and get the first taste safely. And besides, relaxing and playing takes care of your sanity. Going too long without play can make you grumpy and unpleasant and you can hurt others by accident.

Note: These activities work best after a walk or a little sport because your mind is relaxed, open to the new and not clinging to anything from the past.

Inspiration is triggered most of the time unconsciously by something new that connects with what we already had in mind. It can be a new item to add to what we had or a new way of looking upon what we already had. Both ways have the same effect - they melt the fog.

And once your fog has been melted, you'll see others around you who have melted their fog in their own ways. Each idea is a beacon that lights your way and they can become traveling ideas if combined.

Always be on the lookout for beacons in the fog. They come in all shapes and sizes and from the most interesting of characters. You might be surprised by what you find.