Episode 16


The Habit of Creative Inspiration and Ideas

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Can you make getting creatively inspired into some kind of habit? I think you can! It's a little bit about who, what and where and I'll break down my own habits for you.

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The Habit of Creative Inspiration and Ideas

Can you make getting inspired into some kind of habit? Maybe! Let’s talk about that on this episode of The Positive Creatives!


Welcome to the positive creatives! This is a podcast to help you live a more positive creative life, and find positive ways out of the sticky situations that crop up in creative life. If you’re a regular now I’m extending a virtual hug to you, and if you’re new… oh go on then you can have a virtual hug too, it’s nice to have you here!

What a struggle this last few weeks has been for me as far as working, having ideas, and getting inspired or motivated has been.

I often say I don’t do this because I’m some kind of guru, I do it because I feel the same pains you feel but I think my generally positive outlook and ability to find positive solutions to negative problems is a lot of the reason for my success to this point.

I’m also a weirdly introspective, deep thinker, so I spend a lot of my time thinking about and analysing this stuff, so why not make a creative podcast out of it. This podcast is basically me saying out loud what floats around in my head most of the time!

But yeah, as far as inspiration, ideas and motivation go, it’s been a tough old few weeks. So that got me thinking about how I’m going to turn that around.

Because to begin with, a long period without coming up with anything or feeling like you’ve got a ton of ideas rattling around in your head can definitely get you down.

I’ve long been a believer that if you try and force yourself to get inspired then it just won’t happen and it just becomes the opposite of self care, and you end up feeling pressure from yourself which stresses you out and just actually makes you less inspired… which isn’t ideal.

But as I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, I think one of the things that would often snap me out of these low inspiration funks was just being busy. Having regular jobs on regular dates where you have no choice but to work, and be creative and have ideas, is incredible for momentum, and as you’ll know if you’ve listened to this podcast for long I truly believe momentum is the key.

So I’ve lost momentum. I know I have. I had it for a bit but now it’s gone. I’ve hardly posted on my instagram, I mentioned it last week and I thought by mentioning it then I’d somehow spur myself on to pick it back up but this week has been even harder.

I have however noticed my mood in general pick up this week, thanks to sunshine and tennis and just feeling a bit less trapped in my house. Even though my house is my favourite place to be. Something about being told to stay in it just seems a bit prison like. But yeah I’ve noticed my mood has lifted this week and usually for me that means I can find more of that motivation, and momentum usually follows. We’ll see. I’ll let you know next week!

But yeah… as I was saying before it’s got me thinking about how I’m going to turn it around in general.

If you saw a few weeks ago I did a reel on my instagram about when and where I find I get a lot of ideas, and I told you it’s often two places where I really notice it.

The first place is when I’m driving. I feel like when I’m driving, with my music on, I just feel a constant flow of ideas and inspiration, which is stressful in a way because I can’t write them down but I often notice that while I’m driving my head feels clear and the ideas just keep coming. And usually by the time I get to where I’m going, or by the time I get home, I feel the urge to write down everything I’ve been thinking about, or I just feel like sitting down and working on them straight away.

The second place is when I’m swimming. It’s the same feeling as driving. Once I get into a rhythm with swimming I feel like my head totally clears and I just end up having loads of ideas. Same problem as driving, in that I can’t write any of them down, but by the time I’ve finished swimming, I always feel really motivated to get home and start working.

In the last year I’ve done almost no driving, and no swimming, so that doesn’t help the inspiration flow.

But where do you find you get your best ideas. You might not know, as I said I tend to think quite deeply about a lot of stuff and I notice this kind of thing.

So if you don’t really know, then next time you feel like you’re in that inspiration flow state and the ideas are coming thick and fast, take some time to notice where you are.

I think for me with driving and swimming it’s the combination of the fact that I can’t do other things to distract myself. I can’t pick up my phone and scroll through tiktok or instagram. I can’t stick the TV on. So not being able to distract myself is big. And I also think that the fact these are fairly monotonous activities but I also need to stay alert and concentrated so I don’t crash or drown probably has something to do with it psychologically.

So my brain is active, in a way it wouldn’t be if I was watching TV or scrolling my phone, because it’s an activity that needs me to be alert, but it’s also kind of boring and a bit monotonous.

It also helps that I love driving and I love swimming, so I’m not saying just go driving and swimming. But I’ve noticed these are my times of getting that inspirational flow of ideas, and I’d encourage you to really take note next time you feel like it’s happening to you because once you notice these things you can start to get into the habit of going to your inspirational idea factories like I do with swimming and driving when it was possible before, you know, the world stopped working properly…

Incidentally I find it’s the same almost any time I’m bored and choose not to distract myself with the thousand things I have at my disposal to distract myself with. Like being on a plane and not having the internet or if I’ve forgotten to download a netflix series.

Allowing yourself to be bored is such a key to this I think. In some ways we’re so lucky to have so much instant entertainment available to us, but I do think it’s counterproductive to the inspiration flow…

Unless you’ve discovered that your inspiration flow comes from watching TV, going to the cinema and scrolling your phone, in which case you’re my hero. Bottle that and you’ll be an instant zillionaire.

The next thing to do is to notice WHO brings the best ideas out of you. So again, next time you feel the flow, notice who you’re with, or who you’ve just spent time with. Chances are spending time with them is good for you on an inspirational level. Why? Probably because they get excited about your ideas, or they challenge your thinking, or maybe just being around them makes you happy and that activates your ideas cortex.

There’s no such thing as an ideas cortex. I just made that up.

But yeah notice who you’re with or who you’ve been with when you’ve felt inspired.

So it’s about what you’re doing, who you’re with, and the last one I think is where you are…

I don’t get ideas lying on the sofa. I don’t feel inspired when I’m playing Fortnite in bed.

I know if I come into my office, even if I just sit here, I’ll feel more inclined to do something, or I’ll remember something I was going to do.

It goes back to that quote I based episode 12 on – Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.

So if I’m bored, I come in my office, or I go for a drive, or I go for a swim.

If I’ve got nothing to do in my office I just get a piece of paper and I scribble down a to-do list. Or I draw a rubbish picture of a pigeon because it’s quite literally the only thing I can draw.

It’s all about making inspiration a habit, and that’s what I’ve lost through these pandemic months with not being able to go to my go-to inspiration head spaces of driving and swimming. And not having anything much to do in my office for the best part of a year means I’ve spent way way less time in here than I would do usually.

So without all that it’s no surprise that I’ve felt inspired less often and come up with fewer ideas.

And then it’s the classic fact that as soon as you’re aware of something it becomes magnified. So as soon as I knew I wasn’t feeling inspired, all I could think about was that I wasn’t inspired.

So now that I can, I’ll be going for my random drives again – I call it the scenic route – so when I’m driving home from tennis which is a 15 minute direct route, I’ll take a 40 minute drive instead.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be able to swim again too and then at some point I’ll be allowed on a plane again, although I can’t just fly somewhere on a whim so I can’t really make that a habit.

But you can totally get into the habit of doing the things that put you in the head space where ideas are able to flow freely.

To begin with you might need to make a conscious effort to discover where those places are and don’t worry – you will absolutely have your places. It’s just about whenever you feel you’re in that good inspirational place and your ideas cortex is fired up asking yourself:

What am I doing?
Who am I with?
Where am I?

And once you discover the pattern, you can build habits that take you back to those places with those people doing those things more often.

Good luck with it, and let me know if this works for you!

Here’s this week’s listen, read, watch recommendations…

Listen – it’s a Ted talk which is along similar lines to what I’ve talked about in this episode. It’s called “Want to be more creative? Go for a walk.” and the speaker is Marily Oppezzo.

Read – I’m not sure if I’ve recommended his book before but the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear has a really good weekly newsletter called 3-2-1 where he give 3 ideas, 2 quotes and 1 question. I find it useful and you can sign up and read that at jamesclear.com/3-2-1

Watch – I’m obsessed with Steve Jobs. I will read and watch anything that’s ever on TV about him. I won’t go so far as saying that he’s my hero in every way because the more you read and watch the more you find out about the dark side but if you’ve not seen it, check out the movie Jobs where Ashton Kutcher plays the man himself.

Ok my friends, that’s all I’ve got for this week. I’m off for a drive, and I hope you’ll join me again next time here on The Positive Creatives.

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