In Pursuit of Inspiration
Writing is hard. Nobody is born a natural writer - it's something that improves with practice. For me, the biggest challenge with writing is finding topics that inspire me. But it's impossible to plan or synthesize inspiration. It just... hits you.
You can, however, alter your environment to increase the chances of finding that inspiration, allowing you to do your best work.
The first thing I do when I'm searching for inspiration is to immerse myself in the industry. I'll read the popular blogs, watch interesting talks on YouTube, and talk to friends on Twitter. The whole time I've got my notebook open, scrawling down ideas as they float through my mind.
But of course, you don't have to stick to just your industry. One of my favourite quotes is by John Lasseter, the founder of Pixar Animation.
"Art challenges technology. Technology inspires the art."
John Lasseter, Pixar
The first time I heard this I couldn't stop thinking about those words. Working in technology, I often feel as though the industry is boxed within some invisible walled garden. The pace with which new products are developed far exceeds the rate of adoption outside the industry. But it's important to remember that innovation is not the sole purview of technologists alone.
Every industry is evolving, some slowly, others so fast that it feels impossible to keep up. If you truly want to be inspired you need to climb over the walls surrounding your industry and go explore. Seek out industries that have seemingly no relation to yours at all. Immerse yourself in their culture and content. Our world is more interconnected than we sometimes think. By exploring outside the confines of what is comfortable we can see these connections and use them to inspire our work.
Find Places That Inspire You
Sitting behind a desk for eight or more hours a day is not very inspiring. This was embodied in a tweet I saw recently from Justin Jackson.
“Nobody does their best thinking sitting at their desk. Your desk is for executing; do your thinking elsewhere."
Justin Jackson (@mijustin)
Sitting behind your desk trying while to force a moment of inspiration is an exercise in futility. You need to get out of the building. Breathe some fresh air and explore your surroundings. Go to a place where you can think clearly. That might be your local park, a coffee shop, or even a museum.
Taking time to think is massively underrated. We live in an ADD culture where our attention is constantly being bombarded from all directions. Getting away from all the distractions can help to clear the mind and spark that burst of inspiration.
Inspiration is fragile. The gift of inspiration is like a candle flickering in the wind. An overly strong breath of air and the flame is lost. When inspiration strikes, you need to execute - immediately. From a tiny flame you can create a great blaze, but only if you execute.
Inspiration is unpredictable, and you won't always be in a position to execute right away. My solution is to carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go. If an idea hits me, I'll pause for a moment and pour out my thoughts onto the page. Capturing an idea keeps it in a kind of suspended animation, ready for me to visit when I'm in a position to execute.
Whatever your passion, if you want to do great work, relentlessly pursue inspiration. Expand your field of view and open your mind to ideas outside your industry. Your next big burst of inspiration could hit at any moment. Are you ready?