You don’t need to be a writer to understand the experience of writer’s block — when you want the creativity to flow, but it just won’t. Often, we become locked in a cycle of negative thoughts where eventually the pressure and desire for inspiration overpowers any chance of actually finding it.
Yet in business as in our personal lives, we need inspiration to keep going. The Latin root of the word is inspīrāre, meaning to blow or breathe into. Literally inspiration gives us life. So where do we go when we need to flex our creative muscles, but inspiration isn’t coming? We need to find something that will breathe into our minds. Here are four avenues to explore.
Find an archive that moves you
Beyond social media selfies and comment section arguments, the Internet is actually a place where you can learn and share information. People and institutions have a wealth of knowledge available at the touch of a finger that can help you find inspiration — allowing yourself the freedom to follow a research thread wherever it takes you. Stop thinking about how you need inspiration and just enjoy the wonders you can find on the Internet. Start by perusing free archives, such as these:
Archive.org is a free digital library that allows you access to millions of historical documents, from 1943 USDA publication about Care and Use of Rope on a Farm to a 1972 Ukrainian wrestling guide for secondary schools. This resource allows you to fall down the rabbit hole of your choice.
The Marginalianis curated by the brainy cultural critic Maria Popova, The Marginalian will bring beautiful and challenging things for you to consider, such as vintage photos of women in trees or Bruce Lee’s philosophy on death and art. Popova’s writings archive a wide range of topics, usually paired with eye-catching visuals, and always without advertisements.
Wolfram Alpha is a computational intelligence, this search engine returns quantifiable data about your search term. If you want to geek out on graphs and maps, discover all the data points you never knew about your first name, Lake Michigan, or wherever your imagination takes you.
These are just a few of many archives available online. Museums like the Smithsonian also have impressive digital online presences, with guided experiences that can be translated to a workplace like the Easy PZ: See / Think / Wonder, a guide to cultivate curiosity.
But don’t stay behind the computer in your search for inspiration. Here are three more suggestions for finding inspiration beyond the screen.
Take a walk
Not only is walking good for your physical and mental health, it can improve your creative health. A study that included four experiments demonstrated that walking, especially outside, can stir up your creative juices.The researchers found that “Walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies…Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity” .
To further energize your walk you can try any of these meditative and creative experiments:
- Color walk: choose a particular color and notice everywhere you see that color.
- Try a new route: If you usually walk the shortest route to work in the morning, allow yourself a few extra minutes to take a detour and see new sights.
- Gratitude walk: The generative benefits of gratitude can be stirred into your walk routine. While you are walking, notice your feet, your toes in your shoes and say thank you. Notice your hands swinging by your sides, and say thank you. Notice the breeze stirring the leaves in the trees and say thank you, and so on. Gratitude cultivates wellbeing. Wellbeing and creativity are linked in a cycle of the chicken and egg. One begets the other or as researchers describe it, “On the one hand, well-being was found to promote creativity, on the other hand, creativity is conducive to well-being .
Let your mind wander
One of the reasons epiphanies often come in the shower is because your mind needs to relax, especially after trying to solve complex problems. During a tough day at work, a relaxing distraction can help your brain stumble upon novel solutions.
If you can’t go home and jump in the shower, try going outside. Lay aside your worries and cares by studying a pinecone, a gingko tree, the clouds in the sky, or whatever part of nature you have available to you.
Allow your senses to be immersed in the intricate details of this more-than-human neighbor. How do the scales of the pinecone overlap? Are they open? What’s inside? How do they feel, smell? Are there differences between the scales?
By taking a deep dive into the ingenuity of the natural world and studying the minute and beautiful design, you give your mind a chance to ponder something other than your immediate concerns. Not only does this give you a chance to reorient yourself within the larger world, it allows yourself some space to let your thoughts wander, your breath to fill your lungs.
You will feel refreshed as you head back to your desk.
Stand on the shoulder of giants
Creativity is innovative thinking, but you don’t have to start from scratch. Studies have found that our brains are stimulated by the very act of viewing art . Allow yourself the opportunity to be inspired by others’ creativity.
Learn about what your area has to offer: spend an afternoon in an art museum, contemplate a public art installation in the city center, take your niece to the children’s museum and enjoy an afternoon of free play and decoupage. Go on an architectural tour or garden tour.
Get out of your box — the usual places you spend your time — and enjoy art! Going to a museum isn’t a frivolous way to spend your time, even if you have a big deadline coming up. Time spent with art is an investment in your creative health.
 “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier” Harvard Health Publishing. August 2021
 Tan, Cher-Yi et al. “Being Creative Makes You Happier: The Positive Effect of Creativity on Subjective Well-Being.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 18,14 7244. 6 Jul. 2021.
 Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D. L. Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2014. 40(4), 1142–1152. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036577
 Oshin Vartanian, Martin Skov,Neural correlates of viewing paintings: Evidence from a quantitative meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging data, Brain and Cognition,
Volume 87, 2014, Pages 52-56, ISSN 0278-2626, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2014.03.004.