Where do you go when you’re low on inspiration, but well—you gotta be inspired?

Maybe you’ve got a work or school deadline, and your brain just isn’t working. Perhaps you miss being inspired, and are wanting a thing to respark it. Maybe you’re bored in the humdrum of everyday life and want to make your to-do list less to-doish.

All me lately. I’ve got a lot of projects on my plate, so I’ve been work work working nonstop. Not good for my soul—or my work either, actually. My work requires inspiration, but if I work too much, inspiration vanishes. Vicious circle.

Here’s where I go when I need a jolt of creativity.

1. Nature.

No surprise here—I have to be outdoors on a regular basis or I fizzle. In fact, a lack of inspiration is a sign for me that I haven’t been in nature enough.

going on a walk

I stop what I’m doing and go for a walk. It initially feels like a time-waster, but I always, always come back refreshed and reenergized. I need trees, grass, water, and sky.

2. Poetry.

Reading poems forces me to slow down, and that’s usually what I need to do when I’m uninspired. I’m frantically searching for that jolt, and rarely does it come frantically.

Poetry is slow, and it’s the stuff of life. It reminds me what life is about—and that’s the birthplace of my personal creativity.


Favorites are Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, Wendell Berry, and Madeleine L’Engel.

3. A nap and/or sandwich.

If my brain is fried, I probably need to take care of myself physically. Not binge-watch something on Netflix, not binge on ice cream, and definitely not binge on my work (it’s a thing, especially if you love your work).

A few hours’ deep sleep, some healthy food, and a lot of water work wonders. It’s surprising how often I need to heed the advice I give my kids—just go to bed. You’re exhausted.

4. Other people.

I don’t mean copying. This is about finding a spark by tipping my matchstick into someone’s already-roaring flame. A good blog post, an artist’s painting, a sermon, a funny YouTube video—sometimes these are all I need to get me reinvigorated.

This quote from Ira Glass is one of my all-time favorite thoughts about work—and an artist took it to the next level with this fantastic (short) video:

5. Not sweating it.

If I’m spinning my wheels too hard trying to conjure up creativity that’s just not going to happen, sometimes I just need to shrug my shoulders and move on. Perhaps it’s not time to be inspired.

Sure, I still gotta work—perhaps this is when I do the work that doesn’t require a mammoth heaping of ingenuity. I just do the thing in front of me. There are seasons when it’s just time to do the to-do list, not paint your next masterpiece. It’s just how life works.

Just like when our kids’ times tables and handwriting jumps a level when they take a week off, I, too, need time to just chill. Don’t force the inspiration. Put up the hammock and head there with a book as soon as the work day ends.