How to Write: The Unexpected Source of Your Inspiration

English psychiatrist Edward de Bono famously said: “Creative thinking – in terms of idea creativity – is not a mystical talent. It is a skill that can be practised and nurtured.”

Creativity can change the world, and you don’t have to be an artist or a composer to display it. Just take a look at today’s tech billionaires, from Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates and the late, great Steve Jobs. They were born into the same world as everyone else, but they were able to harness their creativity to take the gem of an idea and to turn it into something revolutionary.

Inspiration is particularly important for artists, musicians and creative types, but it’s not exclusively the domain of global superstars and artistic icons. We all need a little inspiration, whether we’re writing essays and reports for school or whether we’re shopping for birthday presents for our loved ones.’

Finding Inspiration

Unfortunately, finding inspiration isn’t always easy, and it often abandons us when we’re most in need of it. This is most obvious in the case of writers’ block, the phenomenon in which a writer finds themselves unable to continue. There’s no equivalent for painters, sculptors or composers.

Jeanie Herrmann of describes writer’s block as “the biggest perceived threat” to would-be writers, adding that “it can be managed and defeated if you have the right techniques”. According to Herrmann, writer’s block is nothing more than a lack of inspiration, and she argues that if you’re running low on inspiration, you simply need to go out and find some.

But finding inspiration isn’t always easy. Even global superstars and iconic authors struggle to find inspiration from time to time. Part of the reason for this is that many people find inspiration and motivation from positive experiences, events and impressions. That’s all well and good most of the time, but it can make things difficult during turbulent times.

Turning Negatives Into Positives

Of course, it’s not just the happy things that can inspire people. Musician Gerard Way illustrated comic books for a living before forming his band – My Chemical Romance – in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. George Orwell based Animal Farm in part on Josef Stalin, one of the most powerful and murderous dictators in history.

So it’s clear that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns that inspire people. Many famous writers, artists and creators have been through hardships in life, but it may well be those experiences that shape them into the person they are. The hardships often inspire them to create profound pieces of art which deeply touch other people.

Let’s take Eric Clapton as an example. Many of his most famous songs were created from dark places, including Cocaine (which speaks for itself) and Tears from Heaven (which was written about the death of his infant son). Writing about the darker things can be cathartic, and it can also help to make your work more relatable. Therefore, to find inspiration, you need to not be afraid to shy away from it.

In fact, research has shown a strong link between creativity and depression, and it’s a sad fact that many of our most well-known cultural icons ultimately lost the battle and committed suicide. This is shown in the phenomenon of the 27 club, as well as in the tragic deaths of people like Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain and Ernest Hemingway.

The link between depression and the arts needs further research before we’re able to fully understand it. For instance, it’s hard to know whether creativity is a cause of depression or whether sufferers are drawn to the arts as a way to express themselves. What is clear, though, is that depression and dark times can be a genuine source of inspiration, which can only be a good thing. It allows people to find something positive in a negative experience.

Be Your Own Inspiration

As we’ve seen, it’s not just the happy moments in life that can positively affect our imagination and creativity. The negatives can also help, and expressing our failures and our pain through art – in the form of both fiction and non-fiction – can help other people, as well as ourselves.

But ultimately, inspiration can come from anywhere. It’s up to you, as a creative individual, to find inspiration from all areas of your life – whether from a happy place, from a sad place or even from outright boredom.
Inspiration exists everywhere. You just have to reach out and take it.

Olivia Ryan
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