finding and acting on inspiration
Reviewing selections of “Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self” by Don Hahn

In his section on inspiration, Hahn takes us through the variety of magical ways in which someone might find inspiration: the breakthrough eureka moment, the spark that finds its way into your mind in the dead of night. Either way, they’re all valid forms of inspiration, and most importantly, they are your thoughts — should you choose to act on them. But, how did you get there; how did you find your moment of inspiration?

The answer? Immersion.

Phase I

Creative Immersion

Unless you’re lucky enough to have “aha” moments without ever stepping foot outside or viewing the world around you, it’s likely that you find inspiration from that which you absorb. Here’s what I mean: Think of yourself — and your life — as a sponge; that which you take in, you’ll eventually expel. Even when you don’t know it, the things you see and experience are all a part of what formulate your ideas, thoughts, and tangible creations.

With this theory, every aspect of your life — every action, every experience — is like “a big bucket of inspiration from every imaginable source.” It’s what makes you, you, but it’s also what helps form your creative thoughts and actions. Still don’t believe me? Here are some examples of immersive experiences that might shape someone’s creative adulthood: childhood art projects, school, the art your parents liked, the way your parents decorated their home, going to a museum or gallery opening, being around other artists, clothing/fashion, TV, magazines, social media, Instagram, traveling to different countries, living somewhere new, the music you like, the activities you participate in, the art your children make, interior design, cultures you admire…the list could go on and on.

So, the next time you think you’re slacking on your creative endeavors (projects, business ideas, or simply the next phase of anything), just think that maybe you’re still in the immersion phase of your creative process. Maybe you’re still absorbing the details you need to come up with your next great idea. That, or you really need to immerse yourself in something new — travel, books, Pinterest, etc. Eventually, all of your experiences and this life of preparation will culminate one fantastic moment of…inspiration.

Phase II


Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” This is the moment when all of your life experiences and thoughts — everything you’ve immersed yourself in — come to a head, reaching out to you by screaming, “THIS. IS. AWESOME.”

Acting on Inspiration

What you do with those creative ideas, however, is totally up to you. Hahn admits that he himself dismisses most of the thoughts that run through his head, because he simply thinks that his own ideas can’t be good enough to see to fruition. Sound familiar?

The problem with ignoring the ideas that pop into your head is someone else undoubtedly has or will have that same or similar idea. I once heard the artist Joan Shultz describe this phenomenon of shared ideas as a river of ideas flowing over everyone’s heads. The winners are those who are brave enough to reach up to grab the idea — and then run with it. Shultz isn’t the only one to think about the consequences of ignoring an inspiring idea when it comes your way. Here’s what Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say about it:

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within…yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with more good-humored inflexibility than most, when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.”

Can you handle the consequences of ignoring what has inspired you? Can you trust that your inspirations are worth pursuing? Are you willing to keep working on each idea until you reach a breakthrough?

Phase III


This is the part of the process where you act on your inspirations. With action, success may come immediately, it may take years, or it may never happen at all. You may have to go through a hundred failures before you reach an end product you’re satisfied with. Alternatively, you may never feel finished. Your hard work here doesn’t guarantee success, but it does guarantee that you will learn something important in the process. Even if this isn’t your next masterpiece or your next great business idea, you now have newly acquired skills and knowledge that you can be transferred into your next big idea.

Take Action

On the path to living a creative life or incorporating creative ideas in your business, never lose sight of the steps it takes to bring new ideas to life. Take the time to immerse yourself in new ideas, let yourself grab the spark of an idea as it comes to you, and finally, don’t be afraid to work hard and fail. Eventually, your willingness to act on your inspirations will create some pretty amazing results.


For more on this series, be sure to follow all of the #YourCreativeSelf articles on the Smarter Searches blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *