I have yet to meet a writer or artist who has not at some point in his or her career felt a lack of inspiration. I’m sure that there are rare exceptions. I am not one of those exceptions, as I frequently feel uninspired to write. That does not mean that I stop writing, though. Learning to write through lulls in inspiration is crucial, if not, necessary for a writing career.

Writing through lulls requires a great amount of discipline, and I doubt that many writers fully perfect this discipline in a lifetime. (Successful ones probably come close.) If you have, are, or expect to struggle with a lack of inspiration, take heart. There are activities that can help you catch your muse. As I’ve learned from my friend Elise Ziegenbein, violin instructor and constant source of inspiration to practically everyone she meets, these lulls can be mitigated and, in some cases, treated by a very simple activity–observation.

The materials for observations are free, and there are only three of them: 1)Your senses. Even if you have one out of five, you can do this. 2)Some time. A little can go a long way. 3)Your undivided attention. This item might take a little effort, but it’s totally worth it.

Elise created a list of 30 prompts for observing, which I’ve pasted below, to get you started. I fell in love with this list as soon as I saw it, and I think it can be used to inspire inspiration (say it five times, fast) in so many professional and creative settings. I also think that many of the items on it are accessible to children and adults alike. Feel free to come up with your own items to add to the list. I, for example, added item number 31.

Print out the list. Put it on your car. Tape it to your dashboard. Hang it on your bulletin board. Most importantly, observe something! Today! Or whenever you get a chance. Gosh, I’m bossy.

30 days of observation + exploration
By Elise Ziegenbein

1. Identify one tree or bush in your yard.

2. Find a branch with blossoms on it to clip and bring indoors. Put it in a jar of water and spend a few minutes inspecting it. What shape are the petals? Are they delicate and frilly, or harder and more sculptural? What colors do you see? What shape are the petals? Do you see solid or blended colors?

3. Listen to a new piece of music. (Ie. Always knew Beethoven’s name, but haven’t ever listened to any of his music?) Pull up YouTube or Spotify and listen to one or two tracks while you’re doing dishes or driving.

4. Take a short walk down your street and pray for each house you pass (and the inhabitants).

5. Walk down your street and make a point of greeting one neighbor (walk over and introduce yourself).

6. Inspect an egg from your refrigerator. Hold it for a moment and note its shape, size, and weight. Crack it into a bowl and spend a few minutes studying it. Take a closer look at the empty shell, too.

7. Read BBC news headlines for an area of the world you don’t normally stop to think about (www.bbcnews.com – regional links along the top bar).

8. While driving, stop at one new place along your route—a park; a parking lot with a particularly nicely blossoming tree; a little shop that you’ve never been into (greet the

9. Follow yard sale signs in your neighborhood. Even if you don’t buy anything (or if you hate yard sales), make a point of greeting the hosts—now you’ve met another neighbor!

10. Spend three minutes sitting outside (porch, front steps, park?) and write down everything you hear.

11. Grab a new fruit or vegetable from the produce aisle to try.

12. Memorize Psalm 19:1. Repeat it to yourself throughout the day and evening. (Write it on an index card and keep it in your bag, in case you forget the words.)

13. Complement a stranger with kind words (be genuine!).

14. Listen for a noisy bird outside. When you hear one, go outside and try to spot it. Spend a moment watching and listening.

15. At the end of the day, write down five things that surprised you during the day.

16. Walk down the street and collect three leaves or blossoms that catch your eye. Press them between the pages of a thick book (with a tissue on either side, so they don’t leave a mark on the pages).

17. Stand outside for three minutes in the dark. Go back inside and jot down the sounds you heard.

18.  Engage with a person you don’t normally converse with (mailman, mechanic, cashier, plumber?). Ask them how their day is going, ask them about their work, thank them.

19. Choose a household object and Google how it is made.

20. Read Matthew 6:25-34 and then take a short walk around your neighborhood, keeping an eye out for birds and flowers.

21. Turn a mundane event (like waiting in line) into something meaningful. Pray and look for an opportunity to bless someone else through encouraging words (ie. a sincere “Thank you—I really appreciate your help!” and a direct look to the person behind the counter).

22. Repeat #21. (And try it tomorrow and the next day, too!)

23. Investigate how something works (light bulb, microwave, toaster oven?).

24. Ask your spouse or a friend to tell you more about their particular area of knowledge (ie. something new they have learned, or an idea they are thinking about).

25. Sketch your home from the outside. Set a timer first: you have three minutes. Ready…go!

26. Read one online article on a subject that has piqued your interest during the day.

27. Learn three new words and write them down. Use them at dinner and share what they mean. (www.merriam-webster.com has a daily Word of the Day.)

28. Look up the constellation Cassiopeia (a distinctive, W-shaped group of stars), read a bit about it, and keep an eye out for it during the summer months.

29. Gather three rocks from your yard (or from wherever you are). Wash them off and inspect them.

30. Retrieve your pressed flowers/leaves from the pages of the book (remember #16?). Note the difference in the items now; note the color, shape, size.

31. Take a picture of something interesting or beautiful with a camera or your phone.

Advertisements