Six Ways to Find Creative Inspiration (When You’re Just Not Feeling It)

Have you ever come up short on ideas in a brainstorm, or stared blankly at your screen wondering “What now?” If so, you’re in good company. Creative blocks happen to the best of us, often at the most inopportune times.

As a creative agency, we’d be pretty doomed if we gave up every time we were blocked. Luckily, we’ve learned how to deal with it. We asked a few of the leading creative minds around the agency for strategies they use to move beyond the dreaded block. Their answers ranged from starting with the data to drawing inspiration from unexpected sources.

Here are a few ways we chase after the ever-elusive muse:

  1. 1. Start by exploring consumer insights

    “I explore Pinterest and Instagram using keywords—I always find the coolest infographics and images that spark ideas.” — Erin Perkins, editor.

    If you already know your target keywords and/or topics, plugging them into a search engine is a great way to get inspired. Say you want to create an infographic about your brand’s amazing sun hats. Google “sun hats” to reveal related searches consumers are looking into, like floppy sun hats, packable sun hats, and sun-protection hats, each of which can spark new ideas for your content.

    You could also consider a deeper dive into the data and on your keyword search by using a resource like Google’s Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest. Both of these sites will bring up several related keywords and phrases linked to your topic. Beyond that, don’t forget to try plugging your keyword into a visually based platform, like Erin does.

    Another great place to find ideas? Go to where your audience is. Try topic-specific forums, like the subreddit communities on Reddit, or question-and-answer sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers. You might find that your target demographic is already discussing issues pertaining to your product, or venting about problems that your product addresses, which can make for great talking points on your next piece of creative.

  2. 2. Gather great ideas and save them for later

    “I’ll bookmark work that has great colors or interesting line quality. A great color palette I find on a fashion site may inspire an illustration for a completely different type of project. Or a pen-and-ink illustration may give me an idea for a set treatment for a photo shoot.” — Austin Harris, senior art director

    Many great writers, from C. S. Lewis to Virginia Woolf, used to keep journals to jot down ideas, and it’s a great way to keep a creative block from happening in the first place. If you’re not the old-school pen-and-paper-type, however, Austin recommends keeping a folder or Pinterest board full of creative work that inspires you.

  3. 3. Review past concepts in a new light

    “I look at past work I’ve done, or work that I admire, for inspiration. There’s usually something I didn’t realize before that can be a jumping-off point for a new project.” — Britta Melton, creative director

    Studying what’s worked in the past can help you build up successes for the future. Chick-fil-A’s former ad agency, The Richards Group, used this to great effect when trying to build the fast food chain’s brand presence on billboards 20 years ago. (Learn more here in this great Adweek article: Chicken With a Beef: The Untold Story of Chick-fil-A’s Cow Campaign.)

  4. 4. Pump some iron

    “I’ll do a very intense workout at night that gets me ready to go to bed early so I can get up around 5 in the morning the next day. The combination of physical fatigue, plus rest and then an early fresh start, is really powerful to clear the cobwebs.” — Camilo Perdomo, senior art director

    New research suggests that incorporating physical activity into a daily routine can help get the blood and creative juices flowing. It certainly works for some of us here at the office. (Yet another reason we’re thankful that Pace offers fitness classes four days a week!

  5. 5. Draw from fictional characters

    “Think about it deeply, and then forget it. An idea will jump in your face.”— Don Draper, Mad Men

    The fictional Don Draper from Mad Men was a marketing genius, so it makes sense that his advice can serve as inspiration to real-life creatives in the same field. As our Senior Copy Editor Karen Sommerfeld assures us, “This advice actually works.”

  6. 6. Try a creative prompt

    “I watch or read something poorly crafted and figure out what I would do to make it better.” — Laura Ayala, associate producer

    Working on something creative, even if it’s not related to your current project, can kick start your momentum. Some of our creatives will use writing prompts, like the ones found here, or challenge themselves to restructure a story.

 

The most important thing is not to give in to the creative block, the inner doubts that tell you you’ll never have another eureka moment. Creative inspiration is out there, you just have to “go after it with a club,” as Call of the Wild author Jack London once remarked. With enough practice, you’ll find your muse.

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