Imagine, Inspire, Curate: Part 2 Adventures and Inspiration

Now that you are in the right mindset, it is time to take to the road and get your hands on that juicy inspiration that let’s you imagination take flight. Where do you start, though? Well, there are a lot of different ways for you to expose yourself to new ideas, sensations, and experiences that lead to a vibrant imagination.

Get out and explore.

“All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child.”-Marie Curie

We love our digital tools, our students, and our routines.  However, the best experiences come from actually going out and experiencing the world with all 5 senses.  What’s even better, there is a way to “get out and explore” for every type of creative.


I have often had to walk to and from the office or class as part of my daily routine.  I often find my mind and eyes wandering on these walks.  The very act of physically moving around seems to stimulate my imagination in ways I don’t expect. If I really need to shake things up, I add a soundtrack, go on a photo excursion somewhere completely new, or pretend I’m one of my characters and try to see the world through a whole new lens.  Mind, I recognize the last might make me seem a little off balance-but trust me, it is worth the ideas it brings to mind. 

But what if there is nothing interesting where you walk?  That is mindset again.  Be a child, have wonder! You can even do this one in the country.  I used to live in an area surrounded by farms and it is amazing the ideas that come simply from getting outdoors and wandering through cornfields.  Why yes, that did indeed inspire the opening to Infinite Spiral.


Driving is like walking and simply being exposed to new territories and focusing on the road always seems to get ideas coming.  The main downside to driving is you have to retain those ideas without committing traffic violations.  If you are inspired by driving I recommend a dictation device (recorder or mobile) to get down your ideas so you can focus on the road.  Otherwise, do your fellow drivers a favor and pull over.

Visit a museum.

There is no better way to get inspired than to learn something new.  Museums have better and better experiences as time goes on, and if there’s a particular kind of object or costume in your comic, they provide an opportunity for you to get up close and personal with physical artifacts (zooming in on pixels only goes so far). Do you not have a museum around you? A library is a nice place to go too, even if it is more likely to be full of secondary sources.

Sit in your backyard or on your balcony.

That seems simple, but your imagination really can go for the outdoors.  I was stumped on my Master’s project ideas in 2011, after long secondary research and a lot of listing.  Frustrated, I moved to my balcony, where the spring trees were beginning to fade.  Following the patterns of branches and fading flowers in the trees I came up with the initial concept for what became, Star Crossed and allowed me to graduate.

The basic rule here is to break your routine!

Be a dreamer.

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” - George Bernard Shaw

Whether dreaming while asleep or daydreaming while awake, dreams are powerful sources of inspiration.  

Dreams are a huge source of inspiration for me, and I can name more than once scene in Infinite Spiral  that was borrowed from my subconscious wanderings.  However, dealing with your subconscious though can be a bit slippery, so here are a couple quick tips: 1) Keep a notebook by your bed. 2) After you wake up, don’t try to think about the rogue dream directly, let the details drift in bit by bit. 3) The more often you write down and actively remember your dreams, the more likely you will be to remember them in the future.

In additional, daydreams are also a brilliant source of inspiration.  I am a huge proponent of the value of letting one’s mind wander.  Often, the best ideas come when you aren’t paying attention.  The truth is that our imaginations need to relax too and flights of fancy are good for soul.

Consume media.

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” — Madeleine L’Engle

Music, movies, television, books, comics, videogames-all of these media are powerful vehicles for storytelling, and as writers and artists the are incredible resources for new ideas. I’m sure this isn’t news around here, but I didn’t want to leave it off.  If I listed all the media that influence my comic then you’d just up and stop reading the list out of boredom.

In addition, don’t forget simply browsing deviations of all kinds is a way of consuming media and gaining new ideas.  Just remember, there’s a difference between plagiarizing and being inspired by the work of others. But I didn’t have to tell you that.

Wander the world wide web.

"When John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry developed the first digital computing machine at Iowa State University in 1937, little did they know that their invention would become an integral part of a sophisticated worldwide cat picture distribution system." - David Burge

Oh, you're still here.  Sorry. The internet is full of everything, especially cats, but that's neither here nor there. It has never been so easy to access information on virtually any subject.  If you don’t have somewhere to go and explore physically, then there are plenty of virtual experiences you can partake in to get inspired. 

If you aren’t there already, Tumblr is great source of inspiration and so is Pinterest.  The two are different browsing experiences, but full of great images to spark ideas.  I’d also suggest hitting up photo libraries on Flickr and Picasa and searching tags, or simply browsing. Of course, there is also the obvious Google Image Search.

If text and reading is what you crave, gather your news sources and blogs in an app like Readability or Flipboard and bring in articles that inspire you.  Wander around the vast pages of Wikipedia-you’d be surprised what new ideas are hiding in stub pages.

In other words, indulge that curiosity. You are seeking inspiration, not credible sources.


The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. --Carl Jung

Of course, getting inspired would not be complete without the idea of play!  Play is such a rich source

Doodle or free write.

Never forget to take time to "play" with your craft.  When we get busy with artistic studies and serious writing, our craft runs the risk of becoming work as we try to perfect it (and aren't we all perfectionists on some level?).  Doodling and free writing free you to stop worrying about your internal critic and just sketch out whatever words and images pop into your mind.  You never know, one of those sketches might lead to your next great story, protagonist, or world convention.

Create inspiration games.

You can make cards of ideas and fish them out of a hat, box, or bag when you need something an idea to kick around.  There are also plenty of story starter cards available for purchase.

You can also make it a bit more complicated by trying this technique I've used both at home and with my middle school students back in 2007: Get index cards of 4 or more different colors.  Make one color character roles (or occupations), one color settings, one color what the character wants most in the world, and a final color events or people that get in the way.  Keep adding items to the cards until you have a few good stacks.  Then the next time you have writer's or artist's block you can pick 4 different cards at random, or sort the cards and put them together until you have a story that appeals to you.

I still have these cards, and do sort through them now and then when I'm stuck! It is definitely worth a try.

Roleplay your characters.

I really have fun with this, and I think it goes back to why many schools teach "Acting for Animators".  Roleplaying my characters, whether in my head or yabbering about my own apartment helps me to really empathize with my imaginary family. The more you roleplay characters, the more you can predict exactly how they will act in any situation.  Now, I admit, I am a character lover and will get sucked into a story because of the people.  If you are a plot-driven writer or artist, this technique might be a bit "meh" as far as a technique for playing to get inspired.  However, let's face it, many OCs on dA have their roots in roleplaying, and with good reason!

This is all coming back to that “Childlike Mindset!” There are hundreds of ways to play and inspire your imagination.

Combine Methods.

Though each of these can stand alone, you can also combine and recombine sets of them for all kinds of new experiences that fuel your imagination.  Don't be afraid to make up your own rules!