Feeling Stuck? Five Sources of Inspiration

"You didn't come this far to only come this far" inspirational quote.

Inspiration is hard. Coming up with inspiration for that intro sentence was impossible. For seniors, you may be trying to come up with creative supplements for college and ending up with an empty page. Or, if you’re a junior, you may be looking for inspiration for upcoming essays or project proposals. If you’re a sophomore, maybe you are still looking for inspiration on how to make the most of IMSA. Whatever the reason, inspiration doesn’t necessarily want to be found when you really need it, except when you use cheat codes. 

Number 1: Start with the Mundane

As stupid as this sounds, doing basic tasks is the easiest way to take your mind off the complexity and let inspiration find you on its own. Whenever I get stuck in the world of expectations, I take a step back to the beginning, and once everything slows, a more transparent picture forms, and my mind begins to piece together why I am doing this and how to improve it. 

Embrace:

  • Cleaning your bare feet if they are dirty. 
  • Breaking off a piece of food to hand to someone else.
  • Lifting something heavy and placing it on your hip or head. 
  • Picking and eating berries off a low-lying shrub. 
  • Standing on something tall to get a better view of something far away. 
  • Holding your hands like a bowl to splash water on your face.
  • Touching someone’s face with the back of your hand to feel the warmth. 
  • Stopping to watch animals live their everyday lives. 
  • Looking at sunlight through leaves on a tree. 
  • Washing dishes while listening to the soft sounds of nature. 
  • Folding clothes continuously. 

These things are what make life, life. So why not enjoy them and romanticize them? Appreciating these little moments makes you a human. You are an everyday human on a gigantic floating rock with thousands of other things occurring aside from your inspiration-needing task. 

Number 2: Sit Outside and Stare

I am fully aware of how stupid this sounds and how unbelievably stupid it looks, but I swear by it. Every piece of writing I have ever submitted has been produced with me staring outside at a leaf 50% of the time. Something about staring at a possibly dynamic but mostly static object allows your brain to think about what you actually want to accomplish. Even better if you can hear the sounds of nature and the world moving around you. Make sure you do this far away from a walking path (I have had accidental staring contests with random students at IMSA thousands of times). 

Number 3: Look at Random Pieces of Art

This one seems like a given, but I genuinely mean random art pieces. The kind of art that sends you down a rabbit hole or makes you question who liked it enough to put it in an exhibit. Everyone claims that art is in the eye of the beholder, and while this sounds clique and plain wrong, pretend it’s right. Look at an absurd piece of art and try to figure out why it is what it is. What was the artist thinking, and why did they think this was a good idea to publish? Half the time, you’ll like the random justification just enough to implement it into the task you need inspiration for. I wrote multiple scholarship essays based on Can’t Help Myself by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu and what it truly meant to be this robot. Or, maybe you’ll hate it enough to do the opposite in your work. Whatever it is, you’ll have some form of inspiration. 

Number 4: People Watching

Yes, I know this is insanely creepy, and I don’t mean literally staring at people for fun. Simply, be more observant. It’s unbelievable how many things people can tell you in half an hour and all the inspirational things they don’t even realize they’re saying. Try having a conversation with an IMSA teacher; these people have been literally everywhere. Whether they backpacked through a foreign country or even lived there, your educators can significantly impact your way of thinking (that’s kind of their job). Yesterday, I discovered that my mother and grandmother have photos with the Pope in his Popemobile. I have never wanted to work more and study abroad to continue this family tradition. I promise that people are fascinating once you get over the awkward introduction stage. 

Number 5: This Quote

“This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever. In its place is something that you have left behind. Let it be something good.” — Mac Anderson.

I first found this quote in a random bookshop in Florida, and I was hooked immediately. It’s written in every notebook, on every calendar, on my wallpaper, and on practically everything I own. Every time I read it, a thousand new ideas or projects pop into my head, and I hope it does the same for you. 

Inspiration and motivation go hand in hand, so when trying to accomplish one, work on the other. Inspiration is complex and can feel like a huge roadblock that you can’t get around. However, the best way to get through it is to pick up an axe and hammer your way through it all while taking in the world around it. If all else fails, drop it and find something new (maybe it wasn’t that important anyway).

About the Author

Maya Holland
Maya Holland is a staff writer for The Acronym. They are a senior and live only 45 minutes away! Aside from writing, they like political activism, public speaking, and finding the best quiet places across campus. If you ever need them, check out the library!

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