Even if an inspiring idea shows up, it doesn't mean I’ll like it or that it solves my problem. As an artist and author, I can desperately wish to be inspired about something I am writing -- like this blog post -- and instead, ideas will flood my brain for works of art. Sometimes I do lose patience.
Bringing forth inspiration requires us to repress our natural tendency to force it to happen. Instead, we need to let go of control and make the emotional, energetic, physical and intellectual space for inspiration to appear.
Today after my extra-long walk, I entered my studio, a sacred space that automatically sets the creative stage. (We all need a sacred space, even if it’s a corner of a room.) Once in my studio, I can more easily shift into a state of self-awareness that helps me focus and connect with my inner self. While I need to trust the process, I must also do the footwork. That includes:
Engaging in a ritual of mental, emotional, and physical readiness.
Emotionally trusting the process -- knowing that something good will come of my efforts.
Shutting the door on negativity, self-doubt, and the external world.
Remember, we cannot force inspiration but only create the space for it to occur.
Tricks to Tickle Your Muse
When inspiration continues to hide, I have a few other helpful tricks:
Change your medium. For example, if you are a writer, then doodle or paint.
Move your body. Dance, walk, or go to a yoga class.
Brainstorm with creative friends.
Do guided imagery. With closed eyes, begin with your stuck spot and visualize five different outcomes. Be as ridiculous as you can.
Think of three or four unrelated words and put them in a sentence, i.e. toaster, red, couch, clouds. Then, take one of those words – like the color red – and write about everything you associate with that word.
Go to a gathering place (store, coffee shop, park) and notice what you see, hear, and think. What draws your attention? Write about your reaction.
Take a one-day creative vacation. Do something playful without expectations.
Watch for synchronicities. Carl Jung defined synchronicity as a “simultaneous occurrence with meaning.” For example, when I was writing my memoir, I needed a scene demonstrating my mother’s temperament. One afternoon, I saw ads for candy, someone talked about fudge, and I was given a piece of candy. I went back to my studio and wrote scenes containing my mother and candy.
In Andrea Patten’s inspired book, The Inner Critic Advantage, she suggests naming our self-shaming inner voice. Likewise, I suggest naming your imaginary muse and calling on her when you need help. For example, before you go to sleep at night, ask your muse to give you an idea. When you wake up, stay still for two minutes, which allows you to stay in that hypnagogic state when ideas more readily float up into your consciousness.
Finally, whenever an inspiration arrives, greet it with gratitude and express confidence that more creative ideas will come.
Carol Walsh LCSW-C is the author of Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma