For as long as I can remember I have been a “creative.” By the age of two, I was holding a pencil like a pro and doodling tiny intricate squiggles (according to my Mom). I would draw for hours as a child, I would actually be outside playing with friends and run inside proclaiming “I gotta draw!” (also according to my Mom). Back then being creative was just fun, it was my outlet, it was simply something I loved to do. Now, as a 30 year old “creative professional,” it’s how I make a living.
I’ve always felt lucky that I do what I’ve always loved doing for a living. But when you do anything for 40, 50, even 60 hours a week—
the dynamic changes, no matter how much you love it. When this becomes the case it’s more important than ever to find ways to stay inspired.
Not all of us are Stefan Sagmeister. We can’t take a year off from client work and create type treatments out of bananas and toilet paper in a foreign country, come home, pick up right where we left off, rejuvenated, more creative than ever and somehow with an expanded client base. However, I have to agree with the Sag that “keeping a diary supports personal development.” It’s something I’ve been trying to do more and whenever I do, I notice a positive outcome.
Here are some other things I find vital to living my creative life and keeping inspired. These things work for me, do any of them work for you? What else do you do?
Take a Break
Let’s start with an easy one. I think we can all agree that Instagram is the best of all of the social media platforms. It’s simple and direct, you see what you want to see in real time, and there are a lot of great accounts out there. If I need to take a quick break and get a visual fix, it’s my go to. Just try not to get sucked into the new “Explore” section, which is really well curated and highly addictive.
Hit the Road
Because sometimes viewing the world through Instagram isn’t enough. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a weekend in a city nearby, or even something more extreme like a trip to a place you’ve never been. Go. And when you go, take a picture of it and put on Instagram and inspire others to do the same.
Open Your Mind
Simply put, if you’re not expanding what you know then you’re not expanding the possibilities of what you can do creatively. I try to force myself to step outside my comfort zone when looking for inspiration because looking at pretty pictures on design blogs only goes so far. Whether it’s reading a book or watching a Netflix documentary about something I know literally nothing about instead of another episode of Always Sunny, the more you’re learning—about anything, the better you will be at coming up with new ideas.
Don’t Just Look—Listen
The world would be a much sadder place if we didn’t have music. Jamming and cranking out work is a great feeling. But sometimes, I need something different to listen to that isn’t music at all. I’d be just as lost without music as I would be without the following podcasts: Adventures in Design, Design Matters, The Joe Rogan Experience and Hardcore History with Dan Carlin.
Take a Step Back
Sometimes I find that the best cure for creative block is to stop and think about what got me here. Everything from being a kid and drawing for fun to what I learned in college or my proudest moment as a designer. I try and block out all of the things that make this a job, and focus on what makes it a passion. Not many people get to do both at the same time. Sometimes reminding myself of that is the only inspiration I need.