When Inspiration Strikes.

I've been meaning to write a little something about "inspiratIon" for the blog, so when a friend who's a creative director at an ad agency asked me to offer up five things that I do to get or stay inspired I was thankful to have a reason to write this!

Daniel Patrick Simmons

Daniel Patrick Simmons

I have the luxury of working for myself from my home, so I can do whatever I want whenever I want (during the handful of hours my 5-year-old and 2-year-old are at preschool). The other side of that coin is that I’m required to be 100% self-motivated to get anything done, from designing new products to reaching out to new customers or doing my bookkeeping. These are just a few things I do to get my brain working.

1. Step away from the work. But not for too long.

If I’m feeling stuck, I’ll choose something else to do for an hour or less. It could be just making a coffee and reading a magazine, going for a walk outside (if it’s not 20 below zero) or trying to organize my studio. After I’ve taken a break, I just force myself to get back to work, inspired or not. It’s 99% about just starting something, which is easily the hardest part of any creative pursuit.

2. Read.

I recently finished reading Yes Please by Amy Poehler, which really highlighted the fact that no one gets famous or finds success overnight. It’s about doing the work you’re passionate about, every damn day, and continuing to do it with all your heart even after you’ve had “success.” I also go to the library – a weekly habit started after having kids - to check out books about design and craftsmanship.

3. Make something.

Using the random books I check out from the library, I like to try out new skills.  I’ve done everything from block printing or textile and pattern design to paper cut collages made with my kids. I find that when I’m trying something new there’s a discomfort in not being able to do it perfectly, which I’m sure some psychologist would say makes my brain better. Doing it with my kids also helps me to focus on the process and making it fun rather than caring too much about the result.

4. Visit my vendors.

I love working with local printers and creative partners so we can meet face to face and talk about the work. We can spread out the designs and color swatches on a giant table together and talk through how to make everything look great. I love learning about the processes that will be used to bring a vision to life. I’m a very hands-on person and love to be close to the craft of actually making something.

5. Listen to podcasts.

I love a good podcast. I usually listen while I’m driving to pick up the kids or visiting my vendors, but sometimes I’m able to catch up when I’m working on relatively mindless tasks during the day. I especially like After the Jump with Grace Bonney, where she interviews various people in the creative community and other entrepreneurs to discuss their businesses and lives. I am inspired hearing from people who have followed a similar path to mine or who face the same challenges that I am dealing with at the time. 

I don't often do any of these things with the intention of being "inspired." Most of these activities are part of my daily routine and they simply keep me inspired to continue to do the work. The quote in the image above perfectly encapsulates how I feel about inspiration:

Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.
— Pablo Picasso