Thank you for your workshop ideas last week. I am letting them all percolate a little bit. I think I am on the verge of something good - but who knows? We'll see what comes out if it. One of the comments from that post sent me off on a bit of a mental tangent and I haven't been able to get it out of my head. And so I wrote this post about it.
Today I want to talk about staying inspired. Especially as a blogger, but also for life in general.
To start, I am absolutely not always inspired. Some days all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch Parks & Rec. And some days, I do.
I have been keeping this blog for over six years. That means I have written something almost everyday for way too many days. I have had times when my brain was overflowing with good ideas and times when I was sure I was done. Shut it down; it's all been said. The most important thing I have done over the past six years is realize that for me, creativity ebbs and flows. It doesn't mean I need to panic when I'm out of ideas, it just means I need to be patient. (It also means I shouldn't start knocking out two posts a day when things are flowing, but for some reason I always forget that.)
The second thing that I always keep in mind that Blogland is not a zero-sum game. I am in competition with exactly no one. There is no limit to the amount of blogs that someone can read and I don't have to try and make my blog "better" than any other site. I can't worry about how many eyeballs a post will receive or how many retweets or pins or likes or +1s or diggs or anything else. It's a vicious, panic-inducing circle to get caught up in and so I do my best to not.
And usually that really works. Although it also means that I am all over the place. Sometimes I'm writing about bread or fabric or paper or food or decorating (and sometimes that's all in one week). It's impossible for me to explain what my blog is about to a person I just met. (I normally mumble something confusing and change the subject.) But I stick with the "blog about whatever" concept because it's authentic. After six years, I have realized that this blog struggles when I try to fit into a certain mold or write about a specific thing. So I don't. I just write.
I have decided to make blogging more than just a hobby and because of that, I work to have a post ready every weekday morning. It's semi-non-negotiable. I don't always have an idea on the tip of my fingers and so often, I have to go looking. These are my few favorite ways to get myself inspired :
Set a new challenge. Big projects are sort of this blog's (and my personal) lifeline. I work best with goals. In the past (and present) that has been everything from decorating a playing card everyday to baking 40 loaves of bread to completing 26 craft projects before my birthday to running a mile a day. I always think I'll be relieved to finish a project, but in reality, without a challenge hanging over my head, I struggle to find a focus and "a point." So for me, challenges are super inspiring. I am already dreaming up the next few to share this spring.
Look back on past work. The Internet is vast. There are a lot of people doing a lot of things and that can be inspiring or paralyzing, depending on how you are motivated. Sometimes, when I am searching for a new idea, I am overwhelmed by what everyone else is doing and find that looking at my own work can be helpful in giving me a springboard to jump off. I check out my own photos on flickr, my own scrapbook albums or my own blog archives. Remembering how I looked at something in the past can inspire me in the present.
Change location. I have said this before, but none of my good ideas come when I am sitting in front of the computer. In fact, I think they start to slip away the second I sit down. This post was developed in my head while I was driving home from the grocery store. Most, if not all, of my product ideas were created while I was watching TV or taking a shower or in the middle of a run. Sometimes (and this is embarrassing) I write posts in my head about an event while said event is happening. I don't really recommend that, but I can't turn it off.
Create boundaries. This is a bit harder to apply to blogging, but awesome to apply to other creative ventures. It can be hard to know where to start with a big project. I have found that narrowing my choices is actually crazy liberating because it helps me to just start. A great example I saw of this recently was on Cakies blog. Ruby and her husband made Christmas gifts for each other. But before they started they asked another couple to set restrictions on what sort of supplies they could use. They each had the same products available and created two wildly different and awesome projects. I also see this concept at work on Project Runway all the time. When the contestants have "no restrictions" the results are often boring. But when they are challenged with making clothes out of car parts? The results are usually fantastic and certainly more interesting. It's easier to think outside the box when you are in a box. Weird, right?
Just make stuff. Sometimes what I make is garbage. Sometimes what I write is garbage. It's the only way to get through the bad ideas to the good ideas. I refuse to consider the time spent on a blog post that will never be published or a craft project that hits the trash as "wasted time." It's all part of the process. Write, write, write. Make, make, make. Don't be afraid to cross-out or delete or start over. The more times you mess up, the closer you are to the good stuff. One of my favorite questions is, "What's the worst that can happen?" That really puts things in perspective for me. If the answer isn't that you or someone else will get hurt or die (and with writing or making it usually isn't) it's probably a good idea to go for it.