Pumping out inspired work year-round is a skill. And with any skill, it needs to be nurtured and guided. How do you go about doing that? First we’ve got to breed inspiration. Then, once the match strikes, we have to know how to effectively get things done to accomplish that project.

Create opportunities for inspiration.

Our artistic minds needs nourishment. Inspiration rarely comes from yourself alone. When you are sitting by yourself with a blank mind, try some of these tips to get those juices moving:

Don’t go it alone. Get together with other artists or entrepreneurs to help each other. Regularly meeting with a group of focused, driven, talented people from either the same field or different ones, is an effective way to hold yourself accountable, collaborate, and talk out ideas with people you respect.  An key ingredient here is trust. It is important to be open with your ideas for your business growth and especially for creative projects. That necessitates trust that everyone there will give you honest feedback and they genuinely want to see you succeed.

Sleep and circulation.   This is just a reminder for you to get that solid REM cycle in and get about 6-8 hours a night, consistantly. Also, get your blood pumping.  Exercise gets your circulation moving and gives your body and brain a boost. It reduces stress and releases endorphins that elevates your mood.  This can also include meditation with focused deep breaths.

Soak up stories.  Read (or listen to) lots of books! Let yourself be transported and travel through someone else’s imagination.  Same goes for movies, live music shows, theater, dance performances… they are all taking you on a journey, so ride that wave and see where you end up.

Get uncomfortable.  Change and discomfort are breeding grounds for original thought. Once you are consistantly comfortable, your ideas tend to stagnate. Get outside of your normal thinking patterns by trying something that intimidates you. Try out a different artistic medium. If you are photographer, pick up a brush and try your hand at watercoloring or acrylics. Or try working in your medium, but blindfolded! Have fun with being scared!

Productivity starts with a schedule  

To keep the inspirational flow moving forward, we need to be productive with our time and create next steps. Your schedule can be anything from what you are doing that hour to your 10 year goals. Thinking long term and working backwards is a great way to build out a schedule effectively to achieve your end goal. Start by listing out 1-year, 6-month, and 3-month goals for a more manageable undertaking. Clear, detailed goals and milestones will help you then break them apart to make monthly and weekly tasks that you can add to your calendar.  

WIthin your daily schedule, bring in some consistency. Routines can help minimize decision fatigue, so experiment with a few different routines.  Some successful people basically wear the same thing most days to cut down on their daily decisions (think Steve Jobs). Work with your natural body rhythms.  Are you a morning or night person? Also schedule regular breaks to refresh your mind and focus.

Bonus Tip:  There is a method called “The Pomodoro Method” where you work for 25 mins, take a 5 min break.  Do that for 4 sessions, then take a 15-20 min break, and repeat. If you like structure, try it out!

Design your office workspace for optimal focus and inspiration.

No matter what medium you are working in, the final product ends up on the computer. Design a workspace that is both functional and inspiring; making it a place you want to work and feel positive.

Inspiration in front of you. Collect a few works from other artists that inspire you and have them in view from where you sit. Then, have prints of some of your own work that you are most proud of right now. Each month, update one piece with something new. It is important to strive towards the works of your mentors and heros, but it is equally important to show yourself that you produce work that you are proud of. That self love and support can boost your confidence.

Color theory. Consider painting your workspace wall a cool, calming color like blue or green. Research conducted by the University of British Columbia show that “blue enhances performance on a creative task”.

 Sit up straight! Ergonomics are important. Your computer screen should be at your eye level, or at least in a position where you can have your neck straight when looking at your screen.  Also, get a good chair with lower back support, or add your own with a small pillow. Good posture shouldn’t be hard work.  Just make sure you’ve got a little curve in your lower back and that your shoulders are stacked on top of your hips.

Open and clean.  If possible, try having a workspace that has a window nearby. Natural light is conducive to an open mind. And, on that note, keeping your desk and workspace as clean and organized as you can, allows the mind to stay relaxed and focused.  

Finding and cultivating inspiration takes practice. Once it is harnessed, knowing how to be productive and effective with that thought will help you move forward and grow as a working artist. Remember to have a clear daily schedule that reflects your goals and work in an organized, positive space.  This will allow your creativity to flow day after day!

Story by Mallory Morrison

Cover image by Elizabeth Karlson