Desperately Seeking Inspiration: What to do when you’re out of ideas


Inspiration. As a creative person it is imperative. So you have time and the determination? So what? If you don’t have a good idea then you’re at a standstill. There is nothing worse than sitting down to do what you love, only to realise the well has run dry.

All those ideas you kept thinking up when you were busy as a beaver have left you. And you didn’t write them down. While you were lying in bed at night with insomnia and that amazing poem wrote itself in your mind, you thought you’d remember it. You thought it was so damn vivid you wouldn’t need to note it down on a scrap of paper. But now, it’s gone. Now that you are ready to work, you got nothing!

What Do You Do When You Have No Inspiration?

So what do you do when your inspiration station is empty? Do you just sit down and force it out? Do you pace the room willing a grand idea to come with you? Here are my personal tips for inspiration stimulation!

Inspiration Attractors

Get out – Go for a walk

Get up. Get away from the desk/easle/laptop and go for a walk. Walk through the hills. Go for a hike. Inhale the smells and ponder at the world. If you can manage it, don’t take your ipod. Spend some time alone with your wandering thoughts. Let them meander in the clean fresh air.

If you live in the city go for a stroll. Take in the sights and the sounds. See what happens. Maybe pop in to an art gallery. Exposing your mind to new stimuli helps to get new thoughts a’stiring in your noggin.  

Hate walking? Fine. Do some hard exercise. Go for a run even. Or a swim. Exercise gets your heart beating faster and pumps out stagnant energy. Drip sweat and feel that brain fog clear!

Do Something Else

Overworking can lead to burnout. Take a break.  Meditate. Have a bubble bath! Clean out your wardrobe and take your unwanted clothes to an opshop. Do some baking. Make pesto. Who knows what could happen. You could cut your finger and inspire a horror story?

Meet New People

When we work alone all the time it can become normal to get stuck in a day to day routine of solitude. Funnily enough solitude does not always inspire us. As a writer I need to meet new people as a source of character inspiration. The more different from myself they are, the better!

I once met a 90 year old woman at a book club that was just hilarious. She still had all her marbles and she was always playing cheeky tricks on the other members. She had survived childhood polio and lived through the Second World War in England but still she had more sass and spunk than many people my age. She made me realise that it’s mostly just our bodies that age. We are still the same people inside – it’s other peoples’ perceptions of us that changes! 

 Get yourself out there and meet new people! People completely different from your long-time buddies. Volunteer at a charity. Join a craft group or a book club. So what if they aren’t “the kind of people you’d normally be friends with”. Be curious. Learn. Grow.


House work

Boring medial activities that take little brain power are excellent for stimulating thoughts. We’re doing something, like washing the dishes or hanging out washing, but our minds are free to wander. Perhaps the woman in your short film is hanging out washing when she gets shot? Or is she cleaning blood off the bath tub? But why? Who did she kill. Clean you house. Be inspired!


There’s just something about gardening that always gets my juices flowing (no, not those juices, sicko). Maybe it’s the fresh air, the sunshine, the connection with nature, who knows? But everything I rip me some weeds outta the ground I get an idea.

I once only gardened for 15 minutes before I had to run inside and write a short story about Tulips. Boom Muthafucka!

Read a Book Under a Tree

Doesn’t that sound nice? When was the last time you read a real book under a god damned tree? To make it even more fun, go to the library and find a book you wouldn’t normally read. Then park your ass under a tree and read.

Stream of Consciousness Writing (AKA Journaling)

Sit down at your computer or start a new page of your journal. Now here’s the important part: Just. Start. Writing. Set your phone’s alarm for 10 minutes (or longer if you prefer) and write anything and everything that comes to your mind. Just start.

Perhaps you’ll write dialogue that will give you a back story to a piece of artwork? Perhaps it will even inspire a whole collection of works. Need more structure? How about write a letter to no one and anyone at all. Start writing and see who the letter turns out to be for. Tell them why you love or hate them. Sometimes stirring up old emotions is all you need to find passion in your work.

You can do the same exercise in a visual sense if you prefer. All you need is a pencil and piece of paper. Paint is fun too or you could try collage! See what happens. See where your mind takes you. It’s often strange the things that come out!

Go on an ‘Artist Date’

The Artist Date is a concept I learned about while reading and studying The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s an eight week course that helps to get you back in touch with, or deepen your relationship with your inner artist.

One of the compulsory exercises is to go on a weekly Artists Date for at least two hours. This could be going to a movie that your inner artist finds interesting, going to an exhibition, a poetry class, going to a dollar store and buying whatever craft supplies appeal to you then going home and making something out of them. Your Artist Date must be done alone however so no hangers-on.

The point of the Artist Date is to disconnect from the need to achieve and instead reintroduce the idea of play into your art. So try to make it fun. Take the pressure off. There is no right or wrong way to play!


What Not to Do When You Need Inspiration


As much as I hate to admit it, the worst thing you can do when your mind will not produce creative magic is to watch T.V! It may seem very appealing to sit down and binge watch Orange is the New Black when you can’t think of anything to work on. But, believe me, that is a dark and murky path that you don’t want to go down.

Watching T.V does not stimulate your mind. It actually puts it into a placated numb state. The cobwebs in your mind just get thicker as that T.V spider works on it’s web. All you will want to do after one episode of Nashville or Breaking Bad is: watch another one. And another, until you’ve finished the whole season feeling sick and sloppy. And most importantly, you still won’t have any new ideas. All that’ll be rocking around in your mind are the characters you have just been watching. Your new T.V friends. They make you feel nice. Now all you want to do is see them again.

Dicking Around on Social Media

“Wow! I feel so inspired, invigorated and self assured after scrolling through Social Media!” SAID NO ONE EVER!

Social media has its benefits but one thing it does not do is inspire us to create art. It actually stifles it. We cannot create from a place of shame and more and more that is what Social Media brings out in us.

Why can’t I have abs like that? I wish I could afford to buy an ass like that too. Oh man look at her amazing art. I wish I could do that! OMG. That idiot got a book published? She is the worst writer I’ve ever read! What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I achieve anything!? Social Media is notorious for bringing out shame, envy and asset addiction in all of us!

Do not open Facebook and piss around finding something to distract you. Get away from Instagram. The internet is a total time suck. It does not so much inspire new ideas, as show us other people’s ideas. Shut the lid and get away from the laptop!

Giving Up

OK. CALM DOWN. Don’t over react. This is not the end of the world. Just because you can’t think up something new, clever and exciting to work on, does not mean it is all over. It does not mean you have failed. The only way to truly fail is to give up on your dream and go back to doing that boring practical job you hated. Don’t wallow in sadness over your inspiration sabbatical. Just relax and follow my tips. Soon enough you’ll be full of ingenious ideas!

Future Proofing

Usually ideas give way to more ideas. They come in flocks. So once you’ve had one, you’ll probably have 10! Don’t drop each one for the newest one that comes along! Commit to one and get it done. Then move on to the next one. Keep a notebook handy to jot down new ideas as they come up. Bullet point all the details you have on your mind and then shut the book. Now you’ll have a cache of clever concepts to visit if you ever find yourself void of inspiration again!

Full Time Unicorn

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