Over the years, I’ve been blessed with periods where writing came as easily as breathing. I’ve also traversed eras where putting pen to paper was pulling teeth. My road as a writer has led to a serendipitous destination: the precious flow state. When we, as creative people, enter what certain buzzword-centric psychologists call “the flow state,” intuition takes over and and our artistic output twists into a torrential outpour. Metaphors embody this state, creating notions of an idea coming from “beyond” oneself. The sense that ideas originate from metaphysical pinnacles or the subterranean consciousness symbolize the will of intuition acting independently upon artists. When our intuition uses us as a means for its own end, we’re in the flow state. This is the domain of inspiration, that elusive, intangible realm that we often reach for, but rarely grasp. I suggest some ways to reconnect with your inspiration, to reanimate it after it’s passed, and to cultivate the sense of curiosity anew.
Meditation is an incredibly simple process anyone can use to relax and get in touch with themselves. It’s easy to barricade yourself with sacred images of Tibetan monks or esteemed gurus and think meditation isn’t for you. Meditation is for everyone. Beyond the bountiful health effects it’s been proven to cause, it can be instrumental in quieting your mind so you can hear new ideas when they come. Meditation is about listening to your thoughts without judging them or reacting in an impassioned way. Meditating can be as simple as closing your eyes for fifteen minutes and listening to your surroundings without applying judgment to anything you hear. A parallel exercise would be to close your eyes and listen to your body: your heartbeat, the hum of movement beneath your skin. These exercises help meditators learn to sit with their thoughts without needing to go off on undesirable tangents. It’s about just letting things be and resetting your present awareness, which is optimal for relaxing and the inspiration that can only follow a mind at rest. Apps like Headspace or guided meditations on YouTube are great sources for those just starting their path.
Writer’s block does not exist. Say it with me, “Writers block does not exist.” That noxious obstacle we’re referring to when we think of writer’s block is really just fear that’s damning up the flow of our creative thoughts. Unlike the rainforests companies pillage, creativity is not a finite resource. The only thing standing in your way is yourself. Self-doubt and ruthless self-criticism are obstructions to the liberty of free association. Our bodies and minds are intertwined at deeper levels than we often give them credit for: We are what we think just as much as we are what we eat. Getting your body moving and going for a walk in nature can be immensely helpful with eroding the blocks you’ve ingrained against yourself. Exploring rivers and woods are useful tools for getting your mind off of problems, not to mention the benefit of the beautiful scenery that can incite creative thoughts.
A change in routine can be just the thing you’re looking for to uproot yourself from the mundane and tango with the sublime. Traveling is the ultimate routine-breaker. When we travel we get to delve into new places and immerse ourselves into the soul of unfamiliar cultures. Walking the streets of foreign cities and framing ourselves within unique architecture is nourishment for our minds. Traveling thrusts us into the heart of new sights and sounds that marinate in the subconscious until bubbling up to the surface, which can send you scrambling back to your hotel to jot down newfound ideas.
4.) People Watch
Of course, sauntering the back-alleys of Paris or the beaches of Brazil isn’t an economic reality for everyone. You don’t have to send your body on vacation; you can send your mind on an excursion just the same. Park yourself in a public space and watch the people pass. A key component of fledgling inspiration is curiosity. If you’re not naturally curious, exercise that mental muscle by asking yourself questions about the people you see. Where did that woman get that funny-looking hat? Why does that guy ordering his coffee look so nervous? Answer every question you generate and build fictional backstories for the people you see. Who knows, the woman that caught your eye at the park may be the hero of your next story or the subject of your new painting.
5.) Take an Interest in the World
It’s easy to get caught up in the narrow realities of our immediate routines, our circles of friends, the websites we’ve recently visited, the media we consume from our algorithmically tailored queues. Every idea is a node spread through the interconnectivity of Indra’s Net, blanketing the totality of human expression. Like beads of glass, every idea you’ll ever generate reflects the multiplicity of ideas you’ve encountered before. Make a conscious effort to break past the lines we draw for ourselves and expand our frame of understanding. Listen to voices outside of your echo chamber of familiar references. Read or watch the news. Pick an outlet you’ve never exposed yourself to before. Choose sources you don’t normally go to or may even disagree with. Challenge your expectations and your view of the world. Look at an issue from one country’s perspective, than see what the other end of the political spectrum has to say. What do the people of Spain or Greece think about this issue? How about the people of Panama or Venezuela? What does India or Iran believe? Foster a curiosity for the affairs of the globe we share and examine subjects you have no prior knowledge in. These activities unfold new networks bursting with the potential for inspiration. Every new thing you learn is a match waiting to spark a firestorm of ideas.
If you take anything away from this post, don’t be discouraged. Discouragement is the final nail in inspiration’s coffin. Everyone who is brave enough to put their work out there will compile a humble mountain of rejection letters. They are not indicative of your success. Artists who are successful keep submitting, keep conversations going, and keep putting themselves out there. The only person you should be competing with is yourself. Measure progress by examining your own history of personal improvement and never stop creating. The world doesn’t need anymore disenchanted, “tortured artists”, but the world can always use more people who persevere for what they believe in.