How to Get Creatively Inspired—Insight In How I Work

Being inspired can sometimes be very tough, and at other times more natural. You are probably familiar with the feeling of wanting to squeeze that perfect idea out while you are sitting at your desk. But it just won’t come out. Then you become very frustrated and annoyed. You might give up the project altogether. 

The truth is that waiting for inspiration to come while sitting at your desk in front of the computer can be one of the most unproductive things you can do.  

Our brain needs a break from the screen, but it’s like we are telling ourselves—if I’m not inspired now, when will I ever be? 

We all have our own processes to go through in our creative pursuits. What works or doesn’t work is up to the individual. I have changed my process a lot of times—including the creative phase where you have to generate ideas or concepts for a particular task. You might go through the same thing, and is now looking for ways to optimize how you can come up with ideas.

1) Work within sprints and take breaks in between

When coming up with ideas for projects I love to work proactively and not passively. Meaning I would timebox myself for around 90 minute. I have found it to be super helpful. It forces you to focus on the task at hand. 

Don’t focus on perfection here. Whatever comes to mind, get it out. To make it even more effective is to put your phone far away from you to avoid any distraction. When the time is over—take a break from your screen.

You can repeat this process as many times as needed. The catch here is to proactively work towards a solution, and not waiting for the inspiration to come down at your fingertips. Most of the times that won’t work. And taking breaks is vital for your brain to process.

This is not something new I have invented—it actually something that I found on Instagram on The Futur’s page.

2) Leave your desk and be inspired

You have probably heard it before. Leave your desk and go outside. And you’re probably thinking to yourself why would I do that? The problem is when you sit too close to the screen, and the things you are trying to solve—you can become too narrow-sighted.

As mentioned before. Taking breaks is vital for your brain to process information. Let it wander. Do something else to stimulate your brain. That could be playing video games, going somewhere scenic, exercising, reading comics or books etc.

All these stimuli will help you see the problem from a different angle. It's like seeing things for the first time with fresh eyes. While doing the other activities—try to see if you can connect it to the problem you’re working. It’s a fun thing to do. 

There's a book called Think! authored by Tina Catling and Mark Davies. It has helped me immensely when it comes to finding ways of stimulating our brain to creatively come with ideas.

I also have written a review about it that you can read here to get a feeling about it

3) Let your subconscious take over

One of the most powerful things I have tried is to use my subconscious mind to come out with ideas. 

Ideas come and go, and they appear at peculiars moments and places. Have you ever experienced when closing your eyes, and your mind starts to come up with lots of ideas that you couldn’t come up with at your desk. 

For some others it might be while they are taking a shower—or when exercising. 

When ideas start to appear. Don’t ignore them. Either write them down or doodle them. You will thank yourself later. Sometimes we are not even aware that our subconscious is taking action. And we will lose that opportunity to dig some gold up. 

It can take some practice to unlock the subconscious mind, but when it really starts to kick in. You will be amazed about the ideas you can come up with. 

I have worked on a project where I would do two focus sprints and call it a day. In the meantime I would stimulate my brain by either reading books or taking a run outside. Sometimes when I run the ideas start to appear in my mind. 

You can watch this video with Chris Do talking about unlocking your subconscious. I’m not going to lie. I was super excited after watching that video. So I hope that it also will bring you much value in your proces—you can see it for yourself.

Find what works for you

At the end of the day. All of what I just told you might not even work for you, and that’s just totally fine. I just wanted to share the process of how I get creatively inspired.

The common factor for how I work is not to passively wait for the ideas to come down—rather proactively work towards ideas to solve a particular problem, but also taking breaks from work.

Let other activities stimulate your brain so you can tackle the problem in a different, and more exciting angle.

Introversion Became My Strength

Yes you heard it right. My introversion became my strength. 

I used to believe that introverts where those kinds of people who would have a hard time, because they are less socially “aggressive” compared to extroverts. 

You probably have heard it before or something similar to it. That if you're an introvert by nature. That you aren’t going to make it in society. But who defines whether or not it's possible?

Some of the famous leaders are introverts, and that includes people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckenburg and Steven Spielberg. 

For me personally, it’s how we look at it. Do we see introversion as a strength or a weakness? The longest time I felt that we only focused so much on the extroversion, rather than appreciate what introverts have to offer.

I’m that kind of person who appreciates and enjoys my alone time. It’s in those moments where I can reflect deeply, re-collect my thoughts and write them down. Just like this one I’m writing. By doing so, it helps me to be better prepared and brings creativity and ideas. 

By thinking before I speak. I have naturally grown the habit of listening attentively to people when they speak to me. It made me a better listener, and I didn’t even realize that skill until recently. 

There was an article I came across which was about “extroverted introvert”. Never heard a term like that. Never knew something like that ever existed. 

Being an extroverted introvert means that our energy level depends on the environment we are in. I do enjoy meeting new people and interacting with them.

But do you know the feeling as you get busier through the week, and you have this feeling of wanting to recharge either alone or with just one person? That’s the introvert side of us that is kicking in. 

Naturally introverts are also shy and quiet at first glance. That’s at least what to be believed, right?

I might come across as being quiet for some people I meet for the first time. But as I get comfortable, I won’t have any trouble chatting. It’s like the more you get to know me. The more “extroverted” I seem like. Some of you reading this can maybe recognize this. 

Introverts are known for not being the best small talkers. To some extent it’s true. It depends on the environment. But I learned that by doing those trivial small talk can lead to bigger and more meaningful conversations. 

It may not be easy as we introverts have this energy “barometer” that we are trying to preserve at all cost.

I embrace the introversion side of me. I see it as a gift, and not as a barrier. All people are different. My traits such as being more reflective, a better listener, more calm in situations of chaos and be observant of my surroundings comes from my introversion. It has helped me both in my personal life as well as my creative pursuits.

What Being a Designer Gave Me

I have been working with design for the past 3-4 years, but it was only recently that I sat down and really reflected about what being a designer meant for me and what it gave me. 

Before going right to the good stuff, let me take you a step back into my life. I was "one of those students" at school who used to doodle a lot on every piece of paper or folders I had.

I always loved to use my creative side, but lost it as I grew older. Since school never teach about creativity. It really sucked. Like a lot.

When I finished my first formal education as a web developer at the age of 20 in 2015, I knew that I didn’t want to work with programming for the rest of my life. Coding was fun, but not quite my thing.

As I was working with web development I naturally came across design, specifically graphic design.  

By discovering and working with design it really has given me something that I so deeply sought after. All of it can be summed up in three categories that I’m going to share with you.

Confidence

I have always been a very shy person as far as I can remember. It was due to the lack of confidence in my own capabilities. I used to believe as a kid that I wasn’t good enough at anything. Just an average Joe. By having low confidence in myself. My motivation was non-existent. No drive. No passion whatsoever. It was hard especially if you constantly compare yourself  with others that “seems” like they got it. 

But when I started to learn about design. I just kept going. Learning about the principles and fundamentals of good design, watching tutorials, listening to podcasts, participate in challenges etc. Little by little I could see the results. I could see that my hard work of constantly pursuing what I love paid off. 

At first I was scared to put my work on social platforms. I think we all are, but I did it nonetheless. Getting acknowledgment and feedback from fellow creatives is really what helped me. Knowing that you’re good at something really feels good inside. It helped with my confidence overall. At the same time I still work as hard as before. 

Also knowing that I’m good at something and passionate about it has really helped with my overall happiness. I feel more confident when I’m talking to people and also when I’m trying to learn new things. I sometimes still experience my old self, but I can see that it isn’t getting in the way as it used to.

Curiosity

As I grew more confident in myself, I started to get curious. Like a lot. Things I wasn’t even curious about or interested in got my attention. It grew on me naturally in my pursuit when learning about design. Since I spent a lot of my time studying through articles, blogs, videos and be in design communities. 

I wanted to broaden my knowledge of other things besides design. Subjects like business and marketing. Even copywriting, psychology and rhetoric. To learn about the world, history and understand cultures. 

I came across a video where Chris Do, The Founder and CEO of The Futur talked about this as an advice for young designers as myself. Design was a gateway for me to explore other subjects. To make connections. To not only be a person that create things.

Perspective

Design change my perspective of how I see things. In the beginning I always thought of design as just making graphics and that’s it. 

But maybe because when working with design you get caught up in details. We are so attentive to details. And that’s why personally for me, I began to pay more attention to what’s around me.

We see design every day in our daily life. Some of us pay less attention to what’s around. But it becomes a natural habit for us designers. At least it does for me.  

Sometimes when I see a piece of design, I would say in my head and other times aloud “ohh, that looks nice, what did the designer think?” or “What message or feeling they want to convey to the intended audience?”  

I came to appreciate the subtle details. I try to look for inspiration wherever I go. 

Sometimes I can’t find the words to describe how awesome it is to be a designer.

For me design isn’t just about making something look pretty. I will end this by quoting Jose Caballer, a fellow creative and designer about the topic of design: 

“Design is planning, it's process, it’s the name, look, feel, function and experience. Remember that. Templates and visuals are cheap now - how you choose them and what they say is the main value - until you understand this you will undervalue yourself.”