“There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.” This quote from William Makepeace Thackeray expresses a thought often forgotten by people looking for inspiration. Finding the right thing to write or design doesn’t always come naturally. Whether you’re writing a press release or designing an ad, coming up with the next big idea can take time. I have spent hours staring at my computer trying to find the inspiration to write a paper or work on a project while in college. The words are there, you just have to find them. There is no definitive way to do this, here are a few tips that could help you the next time your brain goes blank when working on a project:
- Take a walk to clear your mind and get some fresh air. Taking a break is always helpful when you’re stuck on something, and a 2014 Stanford study found that by taking a walk (inside or outside), you wake up your brain and boost creativity. When you come back to your desk, your brain should be refreshed and ready to work. Read the full study here.
- Pull colors and patterns from nature. Mother Nature is quite the designer, and many natural color palettes are very beautiful. Mimicking color schemes you see in nature could give your design the push it needs to be great. Using patterns seen outside could also get you on the right path – many things in nature are very unique and could help you come up with some great ideas. I personally enjoy looking at all of the different reds, yellows and blues of the flowers here in Michigan during the summer, as well as the countless warm colors of leaves in the fall.
- Draw inspiration from your surroundings. If you don’t have the chance to look outside for inspiration, you can also use what’s around you. Look at fashion or artwork for patterns, color schemes and shapes. If you can’t find these things in your workspace, do a Google image search instead. There are also websites that you can use; my favorite being colorschemedesigner.com, which allows you to pick one color and it will come up with a variety of color schemes based on your choice or create a scheme at random.
- Let your imagination run wild. Don’t hold any ideas back, even if they seem ridiculous. Trial and error has proved for me to be the best way to find exactly how you want to write or design something. Having multiple drafts of the same project isn’t a bad thing; it’s how you separate the good ideas from the bad and is necessary for a successful project. And with technology today, it is incredibly easy to go back and make any changes.
- Write down or sketch out all of your ideas. Sometimes inspiration strikes at strange times, like when you’re cooking dinner or as you’re brushing your teeth. When you get the chance, write down or sketch these ideas so that you remember them the next time you sit down at your computer. Many of my ideas have been lost because I didn’t write something down when it came to me, and so now if I don’t have a paper to write on, I make a note in my phone using the notes app. Evernote and Vesper are also good apps to use on your phone or tablet when inspiration strikes, or record your note using the voice memos feature.
- Relax and don’t take yourself too seriously. Often, you get so worked up over the fact you can’t come up with anything and that makes it even harder to come up with an idea. Simply relax and start getting some ideas on the paper. They might not be great, but it’s what it takes to get started. Even if you end up redoing everything, at least you got started. I always found writing an introduction to a paper difficult, so instead I would write the body paragraphs and come back to the intro later. There have also been many times where I change the organization of a paper entirely – that’s when cut and paste comes in handy.
- Listen to music that inspires you. If you’re like me, working with music playing is much easier (and more enjoyable) than working in silence. I find that if it’s silent, my brain wanders and I lose track of what I’m supposed to be doing. With music, I tend to focus in on the project at hand. There is no one type of music to listen to when you’re looking for inspiration – simply choose something you enjoy that helps activate your brain. I like listening to “Classical Goes Pop Radio” station on Pandora or Spotify, which plays classical/instrumental covers of popular songs.
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