Where Does Inspiration Come From?
I’ve been writing this column for about 11 years now, and I’ve never missed a week. In that time I’ve listened a lot and spoken quite a bit, and I routinely have to answer the same question: Where do my ideas come from each week?
We work in advertising and marketing -- and there are very few career paths available in the world that can offer as much opportunity to harness your inner creativity and pour it into your work. There are few paths that afford the observer more inspiration, maybe other than music. Day in and day out you can witness unbridled creativity and problem-solving, which in and of itself is inspiring. Couple that with the digital ecosystem where we operate, and the sheer genius that’s on display almost everyday -- and it’s almost impossible not to be inspired!
My inspiration for these articles as well as in my day job as a marketer can come from anywhere. I look at the competition and am routinely surprised by the ways they creatively solve problems of messaging and positioning in the marketplace. I look at commercials and print ads from mainstream advertisers to see how they try to convey their messages in a way that resonates. I read the trade publications, in print and online, every morning and I look for data points that I can weave together to help me surface trends in the marketplace. I even read blogs by some of the people in our industry whom I feel are intelligent, talented and good writers.
Those are the typical places to go for inspiration. There are also some less obvious places to go for inspiration. For example, go to a toy or a comic book store and revel in the use of color and the pure energy alive in that room. These places bring a fresh perspective and a new palette to your eyes and ears, and they make you realize just how monotone your day can be.
Go to a newsstand -- not one of those on-the-street ones, but one with hundreds of magazines, and take in the smell of the newsprint while it’s still here. Page through magazines you’ve never heard of before, and look at the images and the photography that catch your eye. Look for something you’ve never seen before, or an old idea offered in a new way.
Go to a ballgame with your kids, and try to see the experience through their eyes. Let them lead the way and let them tell you what they want to do. Try to understand how they tackle something new to them, though familiar for you.
Go for a drive to a place you’ve never been before and get out and walk around. Get a coffee or a snack and talk to the people you run into. Make small talk and just hear what they have to say. Enjoy the moment as it is and be present in a way that you rarely are during the week.
For the most extreme inspiration, jump into a sensory deprivation tank and relax for 60 minutes. Believe it or not, most major metropolitan cities have a spa or two that feature these tanks and they’ll do more to reset your brain and inspire new thoughts that almost any vacation ever could.
The keys to inspiration are simple. One, you have to be open to it and willing to let go of the ideas you are most comfortable with. Second, you need time to let other ideas sink in and let any inspiration take root. The most famous artists in the world rarely whip off a masterpiece. You need to take time to let a new idea settle and to explore it before you try and commit it to paper, or whatever is your medium of choice. It doesn’t mean you can’t get started right away, but give it time to breathe. That’s when inspiration will take root, and a wonderful idea can blossom as a result.
How do you find your inspiration each week?