13 Ways to Find Creative Inspiration in Your Surroundings


Creative inspiration is lurking around every corner. It’s hiding in plain sight. It’s begging to be discovered. No matter where you go, it’s right in front of your face. If you’ve been blaming your surroundings for your rut, it’s time to knock it off and fine tune your observational super powers. Trust me, you’ve still got ’em!

  1. Rearrange a Room – Move the couch, take down the picture you’ve had hanging up for ten years, even though you haven’t been crazy about it in at least seven, and change things up on your bookshelves. It can totally shift the energy of your space.
  2. Document an Average Day in Pictures – When I say an average day, I mean it. Take pictures of your coffee cup, the dishes in your sink, your folded clothing on the bathroom counter when you’re getting out of the shower. You might be stunned by how many beautiful moments you have in an average day when you view the collection as a whole.
  3. Conduct a Yard/Porch/Stoop Observation – Pull up a chair, pop a squat on the stairs, or throw down a picnic blanket and get comfy. Set a timer for half an hour and write about whatever you observe during this time.
  4. Write a Love Letter to Everyone Living in Your Home – Your partner, your child, your parent, a roommate, it doesn’t matter… There are things to love about nearly everyone. Dig deep if you have to, but find at least a couple of things, and hopefully tons more, to love about the people you live with, and write it down. You can give them these letters or keep them to yourself. I’m sure they’d be delighted to receive them, because who doesn’t love being appreciated? But this is really for you.
  5. Something Made by Nature, Something Made by Man – Bring two new (to you) things into your home today. First, choose something made by nature. Buy a new houseplant for your kitchen. Gather up twigs from your yard and fill a small bowl with them. When choosing something man-made, think outside the box. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on a new painting or curtains, but if you don’t have money to spend (or even if you do), you can do this without spending a cent. I’m not going to offer more instructions on this one, because I think it’s better for you to really have to think about it.
  6. Coffee Shop People Watch – Settle in with a latte and a notebook. Notice the people sitting around you, working behind the counter, standing in line. People are endlessly fascinating. Notice the road map of wrinkles on this one’s face. Lose yourself in the smears of jelly across the adorable toddler’s t-shirt. Feel their humanity. And then offer them each a genuine smile. Take notes about the people you observe. Make up stories about them if you’re so inclined. Jot down how they reacted when you smiled at them.
  7. 25 Beautiful Things – You can do this absolutely anywhere. It works in a forest, in a hospital, downtown in a big city, and inside your house. Start looking for beautiful things, and as you discover them, write them down. Don’t stop until you’ve hit 25 beautiful things. This won’t take as long as you think. I’m sitting on my bed as I write this, and I counted fifteen things without trying or moving my butt a single inch. It took me less than one minute.
  8. Talk to a Stranger – Some people love talking to strangers and do it as a matter of course. Other people rarely, if ever, attempt to start conversations with people they don’t know. The more uncomfortable this suggestion makes you, the more you’ll benefit from doing it.
  9. Walk a Different Route – It’s such a simple change, but it’s a common suggestion for good reason. Venturing down a side street you never take or reversing the direction of your nightly stroll is just enough outside the norm to cause you to tap in, rather than tune out.
  10. Be an Active Listener – Try a temporary switch up in your conversational style. Instead of offering your opinions, input, and stories, don’t open your mouth except to ask  clarifying questions and to serve as a mirror. Repeat back exactly what you thought you heard and ask if you got it right.
  11. Try Something Entirely New – I’m not talking skydiving or deep sea fishing. I’m talking about signing up for a neighborhood garden, eating at a restaurant you wouldn’t normally choose, going to a poetry slam if you’ve never been, or buying an outfit that’s not your typical style. Minor shakeups in the routine can lead to major shakeups in your imagination and sense of possibility.
  12. Three Things You Never Noticed Before – Starting at your front door, take a nice, slow walk. Pretend you’re new to the area, taking it all in for the first time. Don’t stop walking until you notice three things you’ve never noticed before. Bonus points for photo documenting, journaling, or drawing them.
  13. Someone Younger, Someone Older – Take the time to have a real conversation with someone much younger than you, and another one with someone much older than you. By a real conversation, I mean asking questions, and hearing the answers with the intention of hearing, not responding. Be the listener, speaking only when necessary to keep the flow of conversation rolling. You’ll get fresh perspectives that may surprise you.

It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking that if your creativity is M.I.A. you need to go somewhere new and exotic to be inspired. And yes, it’s true that venturing into unfamiliar territory is a great way to awaken new ways of seeing and thinking. But most of us can only do that every so often. The good news is that you don’t have to wander very far to see things in an entirely new way.

Through mindful exploration of familiar territory, your power of observation will increase, and everything will look brand new.  Your environment will take on new definition and detail. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses after you’ve had the prescription adjusted. Beauty isn’t somewhere else. It’s anywhere you happen to be.


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