creative living summer

5 ways I stay inspired

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tee: Chipper Things // skirt: Madewell (more sizes in yellow) // shoes: Moorea Seal (similar) // bandana: Madewell (similar) // purse: STRUT (similar)
photos by Chelsea Francis
By this point, y’all probably know that I love a good passion project. Between this blog, the podcast, and now my workbook — not to mention my day job — I am creating content at a pretty high rate. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Juggling so many pursuits comes with a fair amount of questions: how do you balance it all? How do you keep from getting burnt out? How do you stay inspired?

Coincidentally, the answer to the first two questions has everything to do with my answer to the third. Most nights, I finally make it to bed after a full day of writing, brimming with podcast segments, the first few sentences of blog posts, new series ideas, etc. as I’m going to sleep. (Just imagine what I could do if I didn’t have to sleep at some point!)

With so many projects, I surprise myself sometimes with the amount of inspiration I can muster in a day. Since I know a lot of you have creative projects + dreams of your own, I wanted to share five ways I stay inspired to get your own tingly brain juices flowing!

1. I consume other media, both in and out of my niche

I am a very firm believer that you have to know what’s going on in the world if you want to create something worthwhile. My biggest pet peeve with new blogs and podcasts is when it’s evident that the creator isn’t aware of what’s already happening in that space. In order to say something new, you have to know what’s being said. I follow over 50 blogs (some admittedly more active than others), listen to a handful of podcasts that are both similar and totally different from mine, and keep up with some seriously awesome creatives on both Instagram and Twitter. I’m always finding ways to join a conversation or say something new because I consume diverse media on a daily basis.
I know it’s hard to get out of the comparison trap — believe me. But when you’re actively wanting to create something that’s original and true to you, you realize that only you can fill that space because you’ve got a unique perspective. Don’t be like the rest of them, darling! See someone else’s success as an opportunity to do your own thing and inspire someone else to do the same.
Action Item: Make it a goal to follow three new creators this week! At least one should be in the same field as you.

2. I think about the kind of content I want or need right now

I know this is tip number two, but it’s actually my number one tip! Whether you’re coming up with blog post ideas or dreaming up a new podcast, the majority of your time should be spent thinking about how to fill a need (that is unless you’re creating 100% for you, in which case, it’s only your need that matters anyway!). My motto: Create the content you want to see in the world. Have you ever read an article or blog post and thought, “Wow, I gleaned literally nothing from that?” Okay, that may sound way harsh, but I’d be willing to bet you’ve experienced it more than once. My goal with my content, no matter the platform, is to fulfill something in the person consuming it. Am I making them laugh, see a new perspective, feel less alone, try something new, get inspired, find what they’ve been looking for, or something else?
You know that feeling when you hear or read something, and something just clicks in you? You feel totally seen by the creator, like they made something just for you at just the right time? I am always trying to recreate that magic for other people. Isn’t that an exciting idea? Being able to make those moments happen is the most important way I stay inspired. It also allows me to open up and be more vulnerable in what I’m creating, which has paid off every single time I’ve done it, both for me and the people taking in what I’m putting out.
Action Item: Make a list of posts you’d click on if they came up in your Facebook feed right now OR a list of things you have relative experience or expertise in. Pick one or two items and start brainstorming!

3. I surround myself with creatives who do their own thing

Having friends who are in your same field can be awesome because they get it in a way other people just don’t. Got a weird email you’re not sure how to respond to or niche-specific obstacle you’re facing? That’s your go-to person for getting through it. However, other perspectives can be so inspiring, especially when you’re usually only talking to other people who do what you do.
I don’t actually have a ton of friends who blog or podcast. Most of my friends wouldn’t even consider themselves writers. One of my favorite things about my circle of friends is that everyone has their own thing going on, which makes new perspectives abundant and collaborations easy because no one is stepping on each other’s toes. If you’re a photographer who is only friends with other photographers, it’s time to get you a graphic designer buddy. If you’re a writer, befriend small business owner. I’m not saying this so you get free work out of someone, though trades can be super beneficial to you both! I’m saying it because you can grow much more deeply in your own trade by seeing how someone else hustles at their own. Plus, when it comes to wanting to say something new, what better place to look than outside of all the same in your own niche?
Action Item: Reach out to someone whose work you love that is in another field from your own. If you can, invite them out for coffee (in person or virtual) — NOT to pick their brain, but to get to know them and how who they are drives them to create what they do.

4. I create something that’s totally different from my current projects

I don’t believe in writer’s block. That’s probably another post for another time, but what I do believe in is getting unstuck by trying from another angle. If I’m in a creative rut, I’ll close my computer and pick up some paint. I am not a good painter, but I enjoy doing something so vastly different from my norm. Trying to express myself without words is a fun challenge that reminds me what I’m capable of and that being creative is messy and imperfect. There’s no wrong way to do it as long as you’re being honest and giving it your best try. After painting, I always come back to writing with a fresh pair of eyes and an open mind.

Action Item: Pick a creative medium that’s different than your own (cookie decorating! embroidery! clay!) and give it a try. Embrace how learning something new makes you pay attention to the little things, then take that attention back to your own work.

5. I build on what’s worked before

I think with the rat race of trying to always be making something new, we sometimes set and forget what we’re putting out. If I’m at a loss for ideas, I take the time to go back and look at how things I wrote in the last year or so performed. What did my audience love and how can I give them more of that? An example: I’ve written about mental health in a few different ways on this blog. I have posts on how to find a therapist, tracking your depression, and anxiety coping mechanisms, all of which stemmed from having written about my personal experiences with depression and therapy. In fulfilling a need for myself by writing about what I was going through, I was able to discover a need in others and provide some answers and solace with even more posts on the same topics.
In reality, the workbook only exists because of this thinking. I wanted to do something bigger for the audience I’ve gained through talking about the intersection of bodies and fashion all these years. What better way to build on that than create something tailored for them? I set out to recreate that magic in an experience separate from my blog. Looking at my wins in a bigger way gave me the space to do something new and unprecedented for myself.
Action Item: Make a spreadsheet of your most popular content and analyze what the posts have in common and why they performed so well. Then, start coming up with ways to expand on those ideas!
In case you’re wondering why I have this entire post attached to a bunch of outfit photos, I wanted to use this post to also shout out a creator who inspires me in big ways. Becky Simpson is an illustrator previously based in Austin (now Nashville-based). She’s the author of two fabulous books and was one of the first two Adobe Creative Residents in 2015-2016. Through her residency, she started a shop for her wares, aptly named Chipper Things. Becky’s motto, a quote from artist Marc Johns, is “don’t forget to play.”
Seeing Becky create and build and grow and succeed has been amazing. When I feel stuck, I think of Becky and her motto. Also, knowing Becky personally, I can say that she does several of the things on my list in her own life. She’s friends with cool creatives doing things like designing jewelry or dresses and taking photos, she builds on her most successful pieces, she’s vulnerable with her community (watch her Insta stories, y’all!), and she creates with heart to produce art that makes people say “OMG that is so me.” This post is not sponsored by Becky, but I’m obsessed with this Neighbors tee from her latest collection and think it’s so representative of the art she’s creating and the artist she is.
This post has gotten out-of-control long, but I had so much I wanted to share! Now, you tell me — how do you stay inspired? What are your biggest challenges with staying inspired? How do you get out of a creative rut?

tips for staying inspired

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