After returning home from a much-needed and wonderful summer escape, it’s time to get back to work. (I also wanted to thank you for your kind comments, emails, and messages regarding my recent “Aloha!” post. Please know I can never sufficiently express how much your words mean to me and how grateful I am for your love and support.)
August is a transitional time for me. Celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month always symbolizes the turning of a page in my life. The seasonal change is also in the air as summer blooms fade, leaves begin to fall, and crops are ripe for harvest. The blogging world shifts, too. With school starting up and the holiday season quickly approaching, people spend more time cruising online and the internet becomes abuzz with promise and surprises. For bloggers, that means the need for creativity rises.
Even though there is the inevitable busy-ness and stress at this time of year, I always look forward to this month. I seem to work best under pressure and create some of my best work in the fall and holiday seasons. The summer tends to be a lazy time for me (as you might have guessed from the lack of content flowing from IBC), so by the time mid-August hits, I’m ready to get back to work.
After resetting myself from six-hour jet leg and getting settled in again in my own space, I’ve started to make lists, go through stacks of magazines, and generate ideas. In doing this, I thought it might be interesting to write a post on finding inspiration. While there are times when ideas come flooding to me, other days they’re barely a trickle. So, if you’re a creative like me, or are just looking for new inspiration for a dinner party, work, holiday decor, your wedding, etc., here are my best suggestions on finding inspiration.
Books and Magazines
I’ve been reading home decor and cooking magazines for as long as I can remember. Country Living, BHG, and Martha Stewart Living were staples in my childhood home. As I grew older, I found myself flipping through the pages before my mom could even get a chance to open them. Still today, magazines flood my mailbox and take over almost every surface of my home. While I’ve found ways to manage the clutter (e.g., only keep one year of issues per magazine), I still look to magazines for inspiration. Pre-Pinterest, I used to tear pages out of magazines and sort them into binders. Up until a few years ago I had dozens of binders full of magazine tear sheets. In an attempt to de-clutter, I’ve painfully tossed those binders into the trash. Now I rely on online sources like Pinterest to store my inspiration.
However, since I do keep at least a year’s worth of magazines, each season I go through last year’s issues of my favorite magazines, and tear out anything that inspires. Whether it’s an idea, recipe, or just a color, I save those tear sheets through the season for any impromptu inspiration. Once the season is over, I keep any really good ideas I just ran out of time to complete, and the rest go into the trash.
Books are also a go-to source for me when I need to stir up my creative juices. While reading isn’t my favorite pastime, I have a slight obsession with books (as you might know if you’ve seen my book-lined shelves in one of my home tours), so every once in a while I’ll grab a dozen or so, flip through the pages, and mark anything that might stir up my imagination.
This might be the most obvious source of inspiration nowadays. While I have boards set up for recipes, home decor, DIY projects, etc., I also have plenty of secret boards for dream home ideas (Yes, I’m planning the design of my next house.), Fall Cookie Week possibilities, DIY project ideas, things I want to write about for HomeGoods, recipes I want to tweak, travel plans, tattoos I’ll probably never get, etc.
What I’ve always loved about Pinterest is that it took my magazine binder system to digital form. Now I can easily edit this catalog of ideas. A couple more pluses: the boards take up zero space, and I can access them from anywhere.
Pinterest has changed a lot since its inception, but I still love it for its original purpose.
Magazines and Pinterest are great tools for inspiration, but my favorite way to get my creativity to bubble up is through travel. Whether I’m visiting NYC or vacationing on a cruise ship, I’m always searching for inspiration. I’ve discovered that ideas abound no matter if I’m dining out at a local hot spot, walking along the beach, or exploring the streets of a city.
For example, I came back with dozens of ideas from my recent trip to Hawaii. The colors of one of the beaches inspired thoughts of rustic but carefree bedroom design. I also got the idea to create a few unique banana bread recipes for an upcoming post since banana bread is a popular treat on the island. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Also, don’t think you need an island vacation or a trip to the Big Apple to inspire you. A bike ride through the woods, a hike on a nearby trail, or shopping the main streets of the neighboring town can work just as well. For me, it’s all about a new experience. It seems to stimulate the brain and require it to work in a new way. When inspiration is a struggle, sometimes all you need are different surroundings.
If I told you I didn’t love shopping, it would be a complete and utter lie. Friends, I love to shop. Be it online or in store, shopping is another way I find inspiration. And while shopping online is sometimes a necessity, I prefer to get in stores so I can touch and see things. Places like HomeGoods, Anthropologie, Target, and Michael’s are some of my favorites. Remember this spring when I made that herb garden out of a magazine rack? That idea would have never dawned on me had I not seen that sad rack sitting on the shelf.
As I much as I like these bigger brands, many times the real magic happens in the small, locally owned shops. Whenever I visit a new city or town, I make it my mission to find the cutest shop(s) and spend as much time there as I can, soaking in their merchandise and creative displays. Given the challenges of running a small gift shop (I know about this from firsthand experience.), you’re almost forced to get creative with the way you think, work, and display your product. That’s why these stores are some of the best places to get inspiration.
I’m constantly inspired by other people. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard not to be jealous of the creative success others. Be it a fellow blogger, the latest YouTube sensation, the newest show on HGTV, or even friends or family, there are times when I think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” As the years have passed and I’ve grown, I’ve learned that there is plenty of work and opportunity for everyone. And while it’s okay and natural to have those feelings, you can’t let them eat you up. (I think Chelsea Handler does a great job of explaining that here.)
Anywho, lately I’ve been letting the success of others inspire me and lift me up to all that is possible. I still follow dozens of blogs. The genius and creativity of these bloggers, whether it’s my style or not, inspires me every single day. Beyond blogs, I also follow a few folks on YouTube and plenty of others across social media. I’m certain you’d be surprised at the people and things I follow as they don’t necessarily fit into my “brand.” But, as I said earlier, sometimes it’s good to step out of your corner of the world to see and find new things.
My Beach Bum Terrarium is an example of this. It was inspired by this YouTube video. (If you’re easily offended, kids are around, or you are in a public place, please don’t watch. It’s a bit NSFW.) Honestly, you just never know where inspiration can come from.
Okay, so sponsored work is a touchy subject for bloggers and readers. However, sponsored work is essential to me because it enables me to produce content and keep Inspired by Charm alive. Without it, I’d be working some job I hated 40+ hours a week with little or no time to dedicate to this passion-turned-career, and down the drain my blogging would go. Beyond the income from sponsored work, I secretly really love it because it challenges me.
While most brands, the good ones at least, allow bloggers the creative freedom to do what they like, there is often some sort of direction or message the brand would like the blogger to convey. Or, if that’s not the case, it’s a new product or tool that they want the blogger to try in a unique way and share honest feedback about. As you can imagine this creates an instant challenge. My mind starts to work in new and creative ways to come up with a “solution” that no only features the product or brand, but also gives IBC readers something tangible to take with them, such as a recipe, DIY project, or home decor inspiration. I love that!
In fact, some of the work that I’m most proud of (and even some of my most successful posts) would not exist had I not had the opportunity to work with that particular brand.
I’m not sure this is an apt description since it’s neither dumb or luck, but sometimes inspiration strikes when you least expect it. Ideas will pop into your head while you’re showering, jogging around the block, trying to fall asleep, or running the vacuum. These are the ideas you have no control over and, in my opinion, they are often among the best ones.
Remember my Hocus Pocus Broom Co. chalkboard drawing? That idea came to me after I crawled into bed and was trying to fall asleep. I sketched it out right there in bed while wearing my PJs. I guess these are the moments when your mind can just wander, dream, and find those little magical nuggets of awesomeness. So, do whatever it is that sets your mind free.
And while I’m sure there are many more ways of finding inspiration, that’s my list. I hope that this was interesting, helpful, or maybe even . . . inspiring.
Of course, the conversation doesn’t have to end here. In what ways do you find inspiration? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.