1: any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences Clio is the Greek Muse of history. 2 : a source of inspiration especially : a guiding genius.
My grandmother used to stock a drawer on the end of her bright, pink kitchen with paper. When I visited her as a young child, it was always one of my go-to spots. Whether she placed that paper to indulge my penchant for sketching, I’ll never know. But, I’m grateful that she provided the materials which acknowledged the importance of creativity. Being able to create something, whether great or small, helps us build a stronger core; one that extends to both life & work.
Yet, inspiration can be difficult to come by — even in the best of circumstances.
In times such as these, it may seem frivolous to indulge the notion of an “inspirational state” (more about that here). But, I have come to think it essential to our work lives. Something that underscores the best of being human. Yet, if we continually rely on others to help the creative process ignite, this puts us at a distinct disadvantage.
While you are likely grateful for what you do have in this moment, your life & work may have suffered from a lack of inspiration. The usual “triggers” may be absent or limited (serendipitous hallway conversations, conferences, time away from our desks, quiet moments). But, I’m a stubborn sort, and feel that there are ways to build the potential for creativity within our daily lives. I’ve relied on this vantage point for some time now. On some days I am successful. On others days, not as much. But, I am resolute and committed to the process.
To combat this internal gridlock, we must find what we might need from within ourselves. More specifically, to find our own energy sources. My own journey has led to a number of observations — including this: We must learn to function as our own muse.
Here are a few of my tips & techniques:
Pay attention. You must become more sensitive to your own distant drummer & indulge the pangs of interest. What are you drawn toward? A development in an adjacent field? A new writer? Design thinking? Attempt to not dismiss a seemingly random element that attracts you, however unrelated it may appear to your work. Read more on that topic. Talk more about it. Ultimately, if your brain engages with something — the benefits are likely to spill into other areas.
Get a hold of morning rituals. What are you consuming along with your coffee, first thing in the morning? What fills the first moments each day? How might this affect you? How can you better control negativity, tension & stress (which likely fight inspiration and creativity)? Know this: cultivating inspiration & creativity is an art form — and not the result of divine intervention.
Stop the energy drain. There are people & situations that truly drain us — drowning our abilities to serve as our own muse. If someone or something consistently leaves you in a funk, stop the exposure or contain the effects as soon as possible. Process why the interactions affect you in that way. Resolve to change your perspective or move beyond it.
Edit your physical surroundings. Most of us have been sequestered to a much smaller world over the last 22 months. As a result, our immediate surroundings have become more and more important. Pay attention to where you work. Pull out items or mementos that help you feel safe & settled. Organize your office. Insert a healthy dose of art or music. Do what you can to trigger positivity.
Utilize a dreamy state. Writer’s block, a well-known ailment, known to be difficult to tackle — has been around for centuries. This article offers a glimpse regarding how mental imagery can open the door to recovery. In a sense, writer’s block is simply a creativity deficit. A frozen state, in which the sufferer is caught without a worthy muse.
Indulge, not stifle. Try not to shrug off an idea or collection of observations. Grab a notebook and record the source idea. Then use that page as a nexus for related thoughts & refinements. Return to those thoughts regularly and build on the threads. Be loose with your thoughts. Try not to edit your creative meanderings out of existence.
Get visual. Creativity breeds creativity. So being a bit closer to the visual arts, may help you feel more productive. I challenge you to discover 5 inspiring photographs or photographers at Unsplash. Note the subject matter and why you are drawn to it.
Go ahead and create something, anything. Whether you have raw talent or not — dabble. Choose a vehicle that attracts you, whether it involves paint, pencil, ink, a hammer or a camera. Remember that creative acts, can be pursued solely for your consumption and no one else’s.
Please note that you do not have to work in an known “creative field”, to benefit from the contributions of inspiration & creativity into your life. I would wager that both of these elements, fund both our well-being and problem-solving abilities.
Read more: Thoughts on Asimov’s The Eureka Phenomenon here.
Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.