Highs and Lows of Creative Inspiration: tips on how to be full of ideas / by Sam Abelow

This digital art piece I created, taken from a antique book depicts a Lennon or DiVinci look alike.

Everyone has heard of writer's block and many songwriter's recall fables of late nights in the studio where the "magic" came together. The source of creativity is elusive and so many artists tend to become superstitious about the process.

Whether you are the next artist of a generation, making your way into the business world, or pursuing a life back-to-the-earth, accessing and maintaining creativity can be exhilarating and practical.


Many artist's have been quoted to say that getting in the studio everyday, no matter what, is key to their process and eventual success. Having a routine can set a foundation for the muse to strike.

Less commonly heard -- but still along these lines, I have found that exercise and healthy nourishment helps my brain stay focused, energized and deliberate. Taking some time to move the body, to ponder one's thoughts while on a walk in nature, can help stir up the creative juices.

Meta-Thoughts and Mindfulness

A brilliant idea can strike at any moment. Because true inspiration is novel and fleeting, it can easily be lost into the next mundane or unoriginal thought. This is why paying attention, with a sense of mindfulness, to your thoughts can be key to unleashing a new idea.

Keep scrap paper next to your bed: the weirdest, most unusual ideas often arise at night.

Take notice of your dreams: see if those nightly visions have some quirky ideas that might relate to your mode of expression.

Keep a journal: writing down something each day --, what moved you, or struck you, what was interesting, or compelling -- will help with developing self observation and observation of others. It will document material for you to go back to and harness when the time is right. Sketching or writing each day will keep your skills sharp.

Practice each day and when an interesting idea strikes, capture it. Create folders of ideas, so that you can always source little bits of inspiration in order to later collage into your next masterpiece.

Copy the Masters

During low points of inspiration or output from within, take time to learn from the greatest that ever did it. If you are a musician, then listen; if you are a writer, then read; if you are a painter, then scan WikiArt.org or museums.

Having an internal library of references is integral to innovating the next trend in the arts. Being aware of cultural figures and ideas is also key to collaborating and communicating with others.

My Experiences

For many years, as a songwriter, I found that self-sabotage and searching for melodrama was a way to fuel emotional fire, which could cook my songs. This often lead to creative highs -- full of excessive material -- but emotional lows, which left me feeling drained and isolated.

Most artists seem to default to mining their own life. This autobiographical approach is powerful, but not the only way. Artist's who've tended to remain self-orientated, often claiming that is is "their form of therapy," may consider and closely look at whether it has truly helped them grow as a person, or, if it has rather, helped them wallow and perpetuate sorrow.

I am currently looking to other sources for my inspiration: fictional scenarios and characters, abstracted or fantastical ideas or images, historical or cultural themes which can be reshaped. This, I find, leads to a more even, balanced, and cyclical journey of high-output and lower-output, with the latter being a period of research and exploration.

Hopefully, I will be sharing more about the progress in this approach over the next year or so.

My song "Cara Delvingne" is a commentary on the famous model's struggles with depression.

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