Go a different way
One easy way to shake up your day and get out of a creative rut is simply to break your routine. I sometimes cross over to the far side of my street when I’m heading to my local coffee shop. I sometimes walk up the next road instead of my own for variety. Each time, I always notice something new, and that can be enough to get my brain going again.
Even better is the left, right or straight ahead method of driving. This is best when you don’t have a destination, or deadline for where you’re going, or perhaps you’re just on your way home and you fancy a change. You can either take a gamble on a side street you’ve never been down to see where it comes out, or you can go in the wrong direction entirely. Just because.
You might uncover a new cut through or parade of shops, or even a gem of a park or tumble down churchyard to explore. But the pinnacle of this strategy is best undertaken on holiday. Ditch the map, get in the car and implore your passengers to choose the route on your adventure by shouting “Left, right or straight ahead” at each junction.
Who knows what you’ll find and your creative brain will love it.
Find inspiring people
People dedicate their lives to the pursuit of niche questions in a way that astounds me. After backpacking, I spent some time teaching English in London. I got in the habit of asking why my students had come to the class. One Thai student’s story has stuck with me ever since.
To be a scientist, my student needed university level English. English is the universal language in the international scientific community. My student wanted to be a food scientist because she had noticed cut apples turn brown as a child, and no one had been able to sufficiently explain to her why. They could explain the process, but not the why. And she was so determined to uncover the reason that she had come to London to pass a difficult English test to further her career. Astonishing. And inspiring. I’d love to know if she ever found out.
Humanity has reached out to the stars on the back of individuals thinking up new ways of doing things. Finding inspiration and creating new things is quintessentially human. Finding those people with a passion for what they do is a wonderful way to be inspired in your own work.
Pick Up A Book
This is probably my favourite way to find something that makes my brain zing. About fifteen years ago, I finally got into non-fiction and a myriad of fascinating, mind-bogglingly clever people came within reach.
My childhood was spent with my nose in books exploring fantasy worlds and imaginary people that had had life breathed into them through the author’s imagination. It was inevitable that I would work with words. But at the end of my twenties, something new clicked in my head and I started to explore the world of non-fiction. Now I have post-its and OneNote folders full of tidbits I’ve picked up, as well as heavily marked copies of books on my shelves. Sometimes they spark a story idea or feed into a project I’m working on. Sometimes I just love knowing that new thing.
I don’t know about you, but one lifetime is not enough to live all the ways I’d like to. I’ve found non-fiction books help me explore some of humanity’s achievements vicariously. I don’t need to be a scientist to love learning about their discoveries, or spend hours in archaeological digs to appreciate the impact of their finds. The experts put the effort in and I get to bask in the results.
Just half of one shelf on one of the bookcases in my dining room reveals an excellent book about the mysteries of sleep, a fascinating history of madness, a copywriting classic, and an exposé of life in 70s Hollywood - all tucked between fiction ranging from a British classic, a cartoon, a collection of essays, and other diverse novels.
(See alt text below for the details of these books.)
Books, documentaries and, these days, podcasts contain lifetimes of other people’s learning served up in bite-size chunks to be devoured at your leisure.
Dive in. You’ll be inspired.
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