The single best tip for finding inspiration on demand

Apr 6, 2015

The world is full of advice about how to find inspiration – both in the short and long-term. Artists have pined and fretted relentlessly about it for millennia. Entire religions have been founded on the premise of divine connection to the creative impulse; thousands of people have consumed barrels of hallucinogens and substances in a relentless quest to unlock their potential.

The key to helping creativity flow in its purest, most unfettered form may remain unknowable forever… and I certainly don’t claim to have the answer here.

While I can’t say that I have the solution (I, like many creative types, spend a fair percentage of time being frustrated by my quantity or quality of output), I can share the one tip that has helped me most – the habit that has aided me time and time again.

It’s not revolutionary.

It doesn’t require some fancy new device, expensive degree, or dangerous pastime.

It is sometimes annoying, but less onerous than one might fear.

Here it is – are you ready?

Carry around a notebook.

O, Internet, my Internet! I can hear your disappointed sighs echoing through my monitor. That’s it? That’s the big tip?


Listen, my freelance friends, sometimes the simplest advice is the most effective. Want to be healthier? Quit smoking, watch your nutrition, and exercise. Want to make pals? Put yourself in social situations, show genuine interest in people’s lives, and cultivate new interests. Want to have inspiration at your fingertips with more frequency? Carry around a notebook.

Carrying around a notebook (and yes, you may get higher-tech about this - you may write notes down on your iPhone or tablet or space sunglasses or whatever you kids are wearing; also please get off my lawn) allows you to catch more of the wonderful nonsense that runs through your brain when it’s not under pressure to create.

We all are capable of this playful, endlessly creative daydreaming energy – look at children, who imagine constantly. Even the stiffest adults, when they let their minds wander, can re-reach this state of innovation. A notebook helps us not only to catch some of those fragile imagination butterflies, but also to PROVE to ourselves that we ARE creative.

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A notebook creates a physical repository of ideas that we can turn to in times of doubt – when we’re underestimating our own capabilities, panicking, or editing ourselves too heavily. Flipping through one won’t even necessarily spur you to enact one of your old ideas, but it may trigger new creative impulses.

It’s a simple tip, but time-tested; many famous artists and visionaries swear by the practice. Personally, keeping a notebook plastered to me at all times (or taking notes on my smartphone) has kept many a promising idea from floating away into the ether forever.

It’s not the most complex advice.

That also means that it’s easy to follow.

Trust me on this one – carry around a notebook. Your creativity will thank you.

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.