Finding inspiration when inspiration is lost

. 2 min read

Okay, I admit, looking at the photo above anyone might think I have a problem with alcohol. But the truth is that I rarely drink at all. I just had to take a quick pic for this article and there just happened to be a glass of weird-tasting white wine... on the floor.

So no, drinking isn't the answer I'm suggesting to the title. Although it might work for some people - and I guess it would be a fun experiment to try to do something creative while having a shot every fifteen minutes - I'm thinking of something more down-to-earth. Something rewarding. Something that doesn't make you regret existence itself the next morning.

I think I was a freshman in college when I attended a lecture about getting ideas. (Yes, I did attend some lectures, believe it or not.) First we had an individual exercise - we had to think of as many ways as possible to get a ball from one box to another in five minutes or so, writing them all down - and then we had a group exercise where five people wrote a solution to some problem in a piece of paper and then we gave our paper to the student sitting on the right and thought of ways to improve the solution on the paper given to you, before passing it on to the student on the right, et cetera.

While both are interesting ways of problem solving, the other requires a team. And I don't like teamwork. I'm dreadful at teamwork, in fact. So I prefer the first one. And when it comes to thinking of every possible way of moving balls from box to box, this analogy can be used to target inspiration as well. Instead of asking yourself how a certain function can be done, tell yourself:

List a hundred things you can think of right now. Write them down. Do it immediately.

Put your kitchen timer on for five minutes, open a Notepad app (you can use pen and paper as well but it won't be as effective if you can type faster), and go on "Hemingway mode" - meaning you don't press the backspace button at all, just let the ideas, good or bad, with or without typos, just flow out of your fingertips.

When the kitchen timer rings, review the list. The first ten or twenty are usually the obvious ones, ones that aren't especially insightful. But the last ones? The ones you may have had to think about? Those are the ones you should start with. You can use the first twenty later.

It's quite amazing what kinds of things can emerge from your mind if you give it a time limit.