How We Get Inspired for Our Best Ideas

At Creative Metal Design, we pride ourselves on creating some of the most original metal work in the country. I’ve been shaping metal the old-fashioned way, with a hammer and anvil, for many years, and my sons have helped introduce modern design and fabrication techniques to our operation. But the real power of our art isn’t how we bring it to life—it’s how we get inspired for those ideas in the first place.

You Can’t Force Inspiration

Every artist has some routine or process for helping them get through a period of writer’s block, but for the most part, you can’t force inspiration. If you try to brute-force your ideas, you’ll just end up frustrated—and you probably won’t end up creating your best work. Instead, it’s better to subject yourself to surroundings and circumstances that naturally lend themselves to better idea generation; over time, you’ll naturally come up with something.

How to Get Inspired

Fortunately, there are some time-honored techniques you can use to find more inspiration in your daily life, or push through a block that makes it feel impossible to continue.

These are some of our favorites:

1.       Look around. We make custom projects for all kinds of clients and applications, so it pays to be flexible. If you take the time to look around, you can find inspiration everywhere, whether it’s in a plant, an animal, a landscape, a piece of furniture, or even in a conversation with your neighbor. If you ever get stuck, sometimes taking a walk or talking to someone can job your mind enough to come up with something brilliant. You never know what you’ll see in a random walk through your neighborhood, or what you’ll hear from the mouth of a stranger. Don’t close yourself off to these opportunities.

2.       Work with your contemporaries. Some artists and professionals like to close themselves off from the world; for some people, it’s a way of purifying their own ideas and removing themselves from outside influence. For others, it’s a way of distancing themselves from the competition. But in most cases, it’s better if you work directly with your contemporaries, collaborating when possible. These are people with similar backgrounds and a similar skillset as you; they probably have much they can teach you, and if nothing else, they’ll serve to inspire you to be better in at least one dimension.

3.       Expose yourself to new art. No matter what medium you work with, it’s a good idea to regularly expose yourself to new kinds of art. Take a day to visit the new gallery in your city’s art museum. Spend some time looking for new musicians that break from the norm. Go see an independent movie at your local theater. Marvel at some of the structural work and architecture you may not have otherwise noticed in your surroundings. The more influences you have here, the more diverse your ideas will become.

4.       Get bored. One of the best ways to come up with a novel idea is to allow yourself the time to be bored. When you’re thinking hard about what you want to do, your mind is racing. When you aren’t thinking hard, and instead are relaxing, meditating, or withdrawing from focus, your mind is free to declutter and piece together ideas on its own. This is one reason why so many people have had the profound experience of coming up with a new idea in the shower; it’s a place where the mind is free to wander. Give yourself more time to get bored and let your mind do what it will.

5.       Set deadlines. That said, a bit of pressure is sometimes helpful to motivate you to get your ideas on paper. Set strict deadlines for yourself, even if you’re only working on a personal project. For example, you might try to create a complete painting in the span of an hour, or you might force yourself to come up with a dozen new potential ideas by the end of the day. You may not make your best work this way, but you’ll certainly make progress—and sometimes, progress is enough.

6.       Create more. There’s an anecdote in a book called Art and Fear that goes a little like this: a ceramics teacher divides his class in two. He tells one half to spend all semester trying to make the perfect piece, and will grade them on it exclusively. He tells the other half to produce as many pieces as they can, regardless of quality, and will grade them on the amount they produce. At the end of the semester, the group creating more pieces ended up making better work overall because they got more experience and learned from their mistakes. If you want better ideas, you have to be okay with creating some bad ones along the way.

7.       Combine ideas. If you’re stuck on coming up with the “perfect” idea, why not combine two or more previously unrelated ideas? Chances are, you have dozens of half-finished projects and false starts floating around. Take some time to sort through those would-be pieces, and scrap them for parts, so to speak. If you’ve been creating ideas for any period of time, it’s highly likely you’ll be able to create something meaningful just from your leftovers.

8.       Get a cold eye. If you’ve been staring at a blank canvas, or at a loose sketch of your latest idea, for too long, you may need to take some time away to get a “cold eye.” A cold eye allows you to see things from a fresh perspective, without your previous assumptions, fears, and thoughts to weigh you down. Step away from the studio, try not to think about your work, and only return to your idea after a day—or at least several hours—has passed.

If you’re interested in having us create a piece for your home or business, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free quote. We design our work to last a lifetime, and we treat every project as the unique opportunity it is.