Finding Inspiration in the Everyday

Hi, friends. Elizabeth here. I used to compartmentalize my “creative time,” keeping it separate from family and work life. On one hand, it keeps the mess away from the chores. But on the other, it kept me from being present to all the inspiration daily life was serving me. When I finally learned to unpack that creativity, I found everyday life to be the ultimate muse. I hope these simple shifts will help you to find new inspiration in the everyday.

  1. Rethink your routine

Like most people, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse.  Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time.  I promise.  It’s possible. If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit.  I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious.  I am not a magician. There are only 24 hours in the day.  If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later.  Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!). I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when my youngest has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show.  For me, everything feels possible in the morning.  For others, this may be true at night. Carve out your time and protect it.

  1. Arm yourself

Carry a sketchbook, or journal, or violin or whatever with you.  That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready. I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchbooks that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe).  I usually draw first, and then add color later.

  1. Accept a challenge

It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033.  While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and forget to post a photo… on the second day. Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor.  Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?” You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge.  Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two.  Or perhaps you’d like to art journal every day for the month? Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others.  As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.

  1. Set it to shuffle mode

Yes, I am talking about music.  And yes, I am talking about other things too.  Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library.  I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:

  • Weird Christmas song
  • Tupac
  • A song about (but not by) Tupac
  • Michael Jackson
  • Ambient Reiki or yoga music
  • Sad Whitney Houston song
  • More Michael Jackson
  • Another weird Christmas song
  • Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
  • Another sad Whitney Houston song
  • A HIDDEN GEM!

Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Justin Beiber album worthwhile.  Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project. Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper and read the first article you land on. Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011”– first).  Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).

  1. Enjoy a change of scenery

I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery. For me, one foolproof way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move.   Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach.  When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change. Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like, “Elizabeth!  I took your advice!  I saw sort of a dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it.  And now I am missing my wallet.  AND AN EAR!” That’s very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY.  Be careful and be safe.  Think with your right brain while using your left brain.  Please.

  1. Pick up your camera.  Or don’t.

These days, so much of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets. On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event.  On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone. I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason.  I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied with looking at my camera.  Mostly because it’s just a camera.  It can’t text my sister a sloth picture. How do you make room for creativity in your day?  What’s your current muse?

Elizabeth

Elizabeth lives in Boston with her husband, two young children and not-so-young French bulldog.  She is passionate about encouraging others in their creative pursuits and building peaceful communities. She almost always laughs at her own jokes.

6 Comments

  1. julia Thomas

    Reading this has reminded me why I love your blog so much, you writing is so relatable and this subject is super inspiring…. YEY Elizabeth! <3

    • Elizabeth D.

      Thank you, my friend! <3

  2. Vanessa Oliver-lloyd

    Elizabeth, I loved reading this! I felt like we were having a conversation over a warm drink. Love your writing style and I think you have some really valid points here.

    • Elizabeth D.

      Thank you so much, Vanessa! Please sign me up for that conversation and warm drink! xx

  3. Emily@squiggleandswirl

    You have got such a great writing voice! This made me smile Elizabeth, I love the idea of creative time being part of every day life. The other day I saw this lovely design on a chocolate wrapper so I went home and it inspired an art journal page background. Thanks for this inspiring post!

    • Elizabeth D.

      Thank you, Emily! I love how we can be inspired by something as seemingly ordinary as a chocolate wrapper! xx