Before I begin, I should point out that “waiting for inspiration” is something you shouldn’t rely on if you want to be an artist, writer etc… because regular scheduled practice (even when you don’t make anything good and/or feel “uninspired”) is a much better way to train your mind to be consistently creative.
Regularly “showing up” and actively looking for inspiration (even if you don’t find it every time and sometimes end up churning out second-rate work) will give you so many more ideas and so much more confidence than if you just sit around and wait for inspiration to come to you. If you push yourself to make something every day, every three days, every week etc… even if it isn’t very good, then you’ll find that feeling uninspired becomes less of an issue over time. Creativity is a skill that requires practice.
Even so, there’s no denying that it’s a really cool experience when an idea just appears in your mind. And, since this happened to me a couple of times recently (I thought that I’d lost interest in making comics… only to suddenly think of ideas for two short parody comics that were too hilarious not to make), I thought that I’d offer a few tips about how to wait for inspiration. Although, again, you shouldn’t rely on this as your main source of creative ideas. It’s a fun supplement to regular practice and nothing more.
1) Do something else: If you’re feeling uninspired, then it can be tempting to stare at the blank page or blank screen and rack your brain for ideas. Everyone does this at some point and it is nothing to feel ashamed of. However, it is the worst way to find sudden moments of inspiration. It doesn’t work very often because you’re too busy feeling frustrated about not having ideas to give your mind any room to actually work on creating them.
So, do something else. Do something a bit mindless that allows you to let your mind wander and to daydream. Something relaxing and/or enjoyably boring. Something that requires you to think about what you are doing, but also doesn’t take up 100% of your mind’s resources. Not only will this distract you from the feelings of frustration that you’ll get if you just stare at your sketchbook or computer, but this relaxation and/or mild boredom is also the perfect conditions for daydreams, which can turn into good “inspired” ideas.
For example, when I had the ideas for the two parody comics I mentioned earlier, I had one when I was watering some plants and I had the other when I was re-playing an old computer game during a few spare minutes. Both things were relaxing enough to make me daydream, but also required enough attention to distract me from any frustrating feelings of “being uninspired”.
2) Keep your mind fuelled: In short, you’re more likely to suddenly have “inspired” ideas if you regularly keep your mind fuelled with a variety of different creative works. The emphasis here is on “regularly” and “variety”.
Frequent exposure to other examples of creativity (eg: novels, films, comics, games, music etc…) provides a good jumping off point for your own daydreams and also means that there will be something new for your mind to examine on a regular basis. It keeps your imagination well-stocked with prompts that can be turned into new and interesting ideas. But, this is also why variety is important.
Unless you’re writing fan fiction or making fan art, then you’ll want your “inspired” ideas to actually be original ones. And the best way to give your imagination the source material it needs to create original ideas is to expose yourself to a wide variety of different things that it can combine, cross-reference, compare etc… in new and interesting ways, to look at a wide variety of different things that your imagination can meld together into something that is completely different from any one thing you’ve been exposed to.
So, read stories by different authors in different genres, look at different styles of art, play a variety of different games, listen to a few genres of music etc…. The more you regularly expose yourself to a variety of different creative works, the more likely you will be to have sudden moments of inspiration.
3) Give it time: Sometimes, an “inspired” idea will appear fully-formed and ready to go. However, this isn’t all that common. What tends to happen a lot more often is that you’ll only get part of an idea. This will usually seem absolutely brilliant at first but, when you try to make a sketch or write a few paragraphs, it just feels incomplete and/or doesn’t work properly. Needless to say, this can be more than a little bit frustrating. So, what should you do?
First of all, make a note of it (seriously, write it down!). Secondly, just give it time. If the idea is any good, then the rest of it will end up appearing at some point in the future. It might end up being very different or there might just be one really obvious small change that just makes it “work”, but it will appear when it is ready.
There’s no hidden trick to this. Sometimes you’ll get part of an “inspired” idea and the rest of it might not appear for literally years. Sometimes the rest of it will appear five minutes later. As I mentioned earlier, just waiting for inspiration isn’t the most reliable or consistent way to get creative ideas. So, be sure to practice regularly whilst you wait for the rest of your “inspired” idea to appear.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂