Devin Brooks

Inspiration seems like some magical unicorn that only graces the lucky ones.

That's the way I've heard it talked about, anyway.

Inspiration is an individual experience. I usually feel a kind of warmth followed by an immense amount of productive joy centered around a specific project.

But what, exactly, is inspiration? I like this bit from The New York Times best:

There’s a thrilling feeling of elevation, a burst of energy, an awareness of enlarged possibilities. The person in the grip of inspiration has received, as if by magic, some new perception, some holistic understanding, along with the feeling that she is capable of more than she thought.
— David Brooks, The New York Times

You can't summon inspiration at will, but you can encourage it to show up more often. I think inspiration is fostered by preoccupation, innovative thinking, and patience.

Specifically, some ways to pursue inspiration is through a combination of the following:


INCUBATION + procrastination

First off: it's good to be so immersed in a project that it takes up incubation in the back of your mind. If you've read 6 Ways to Overcome Creative Mental Blocks, then you know that incubation occurs when you leave a problem alone in your consciousness, but your subconscious picks up the work and keeps going.

Oftentimes what you experience will connect with other thoughts during your incubation period, which can help spark a flight of inspiration.

For the same reasons, procrastination is also something that actually serves the creative process well. It gives your mind enough time to consider other possibilities besides the ones that you initially come up with. This leaves a better chance for innovative ideas to connect and inspire.

Here's a great TED video on procrastination and creativity from Adam Grant:


constant learning and Experimentation

Combining interests or creative fields increases your ability to think in terms of the new and unexpected. This creates a foundation for inspiration to strike.

Try something new, even if you don't think you'll be any good at it. If you're a writer, draw. If you're a techie, try painting.

The more areas of your brain you access, the longer you open the door for inspiration.

The same goes for constant learning outside of experimentation. Constant learning primes the mind for deeper thinking. The more knowledgable you are, the greater your chances of forming those divergent thoughts that inspiration can grasp onto.


Ask why all the time

This may sound like constant learning, but it isn't. This goes a bit deeper: asking why engages a different kind of thinking. You're asking the purpose of something, how it's effective, what could be improved, and more.

Thinking critically is a key component of innovation. Inspiration and innovation often go hand in hand, but not always in the same order. Sometimes innovation may spark inspiration because you've made it a habit to explore unknown possibilities. 

Learn not to take most things in your life passively. Learn to question the world around you, especially in context of whichever creative projects matter most.



Learning to be present in your every day life is so important to encouraging inspiration. Ask most successful novelists where they get their ideas (aka inspiration), and they'll say, "Everywhere." In fact, Stephen King says just that:

I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.
— stephen king

Set a limit for technology and dedicate your time to exploring and experiencing the world around you in real time. Allow your mind to find everyday occurrences that fascinate it. Listen to people talk and interact. You'll learn a lot, and encourage inspiration to come out from its hiding place.



Sometimes you can block inspiration without realizing it. This blockage can come through episodes of self-doubt and uncertainty. There's nothing wrong with being uncertain about a project, but as Adam Grant says in the TED video above, there's a different between self-doubt and idea-doubt.

Idea-doubt itself is inspiring. It encourages you to find a solution to your creative problem. Self-doubt, however, cripples the mind from progress. Self-doubt puts the mind in a state of self-defense and protection, which blocks divergent thinking and the opportunity for inspiration to visit. 

Be kinder to yourself. Recognize that uncertainty in a project can be a wonderful thing, and that it doesn't reflect your personal worth or value. Trust yourself enough to try, and then try again, and again, and again.

Don't worry. You'll get there.

Inspiration and creativity are a direct product of your hard work, persistence, and self-trust. I want to end this post with another amazing video from TED Talks. This is from Julie Bernstein, and her four lessons learned on creativity:


How do you find your inspiration? Let me know in the comments below!



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