How Do You Get Inspired?

Ever sit down to write/draw/paint/anything creative and just…sat there? These creativity blocks are pretty frustrating (and, as we’ll explore further in a bit, that can actually make matters worse). You want to combat this…but how? We have some ideas.

Find Your Happy Place.

A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Some people have a physical place, like an office or spot in the library, while other people focus more on cultivating a certain internal atmosphere. Think about when you’re at your peak creativity (something you’ll have to explore on your own), and try to recreate that experience as you get in the creative zone. Personally, I do well with quiet and physical activity- usually running. Although, I have found that complete quiet is actually unnerving, and some background noise is actually preferable (like people having a conversation in another room level of quiet). Pay attention and figure out what works best for you- and keep doing that!

10 Ideas.

The purpose of this exercise is to dedicate some time to being creative. So, you sit down and generate as many ideas as you can¬†without judgement. It isn’t meant to cause anxiety about reaching a certain number or wondering why your ideas are lame/weird/useless/what-have-you. All you’re supposed to do is sit down and let the ideas flow. You know how kids are uninhibited when they play? That’s more or less the goal with this exercise. Here’s the link/explanation behind the “10 Ideas a Day” exercise.

If you look online, there are TONS of creativity boosting exercises/tips. My advice- take all of these ideas with a grain of salt. Some of the exercises might look fun- try them out! But not everything is going to be your jam, and if you ask me, it’s okay to skim over those.

Do Interesting Things…

Being stagnant in real life can sometimes lead to a creativity drought. If you’re stumped, this might be a perfect time to visit your bucket list…not to be dark, but to get inspired. These don’t have to be the sweeping, cliff-jumping/spelunking/flying an airplane type of ‘bucket list’ items- maybe you’ve always wanted to knit a sweater, finish a Crossword puzzle, or go to that restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to. Afterwards, you’ll have a new experience that might be worth sharing creatively, but if not, just the act of doing something different can pull your brain out of routine-mode for a bit and help you out of the creative drought. Typically, I try to do at least one small, off the routine adventure every week (usually a hike I haven’t done yet).

…But Not Because Someone Else Thinks They’re Cool.

For instance, if you go skydiving just because it’s something other people will find interesting, you might just end up stressing yourself out. In other words, don’t succumb to peer pressure for the sake of creativity ūüôā


Read, go exploring, take a class, watch a movie- one of the best ways to get your brain working is to take in information. The trick is to do this simply to consume- not approaching it from a “What ideas can I get from this?” Tricky, right?

If you already do a lot of reading, switch it up every now and then. Personally, I love fiction and poetry, but every now and then I’ll force myself into a bit of non-fiction on a topic I find interesting or want to learn more about. The result: confronted with this subject matter, I often go to the “What if¬†this¬†had happened instead” or “Why did [whatever person] do [whatever thing]?” (This also used to happen in school and made concentrating on problem sets in physics difficult- so many roller coasters).

Happy October-and creativity month!

We Can All Go-Pro

A couple years ago, when I’d first heard of GoPro, I assumed it was something¬†used exclusively by¬†hardcore outdoorsy people or extreme sports enthusiasts. It may have started out that way, but after watching a 60 Minutes segment with Go-Pro CEO Nick Woodman the other night, it seems like this product has morphed into a household name. I felt pretty inspired by the whole thing.


An Entrepreneur at Heart

In particular,¬†Woodman’s entrepreneurial spirit¬†captured my attention. Here¬†was an almost 40¬†year-old guy who seems a LOT younger. This is not solely based on appearance, but use of words like “stoked” (which I love), his high energy level/exuberance, and clear passion for what he’s created. (As an additional disclaimer, I’m terrible at gauging other people’s ages). Go-Pro was by no means his first business idea. In the early 2000s, when he was 24 (my current age), he started a business called Funbug, which didn’t take off.

Everyone loves a comeback story.

Instead of giving up completely, Woodman retreated (abroad and then in his VW van) for some personal reflection, and came back with GoPro. The power of example here doesn’t just lie in the idea of perseverance. Sure, Woodman was wildly successful on his second go-around with innovation, but what struck me was how his approach changed. The idea and prototype process for GoPro started around 2001, but it took another ten or so years before it really took off (check out this timeline from Forbes for an in-depth look at GoPro’s story).

Video Sharing for All

But just why is something like Go-Pro so popular? Besides setting itself apart from regular cameras, or their rivals-the smartphone (it has been referred to as a “rugged gadget,” which seems accurate), GoPro found itself “in the right place at the right time.”

Video sharing, as discussed in a few of our other blog posts (like this one on SEO and online video), is becoming increasingly prominent in the online world. We have sites like Upworthy, YouTube, and Vine, which all rely on video content. GoPro offers a way to create and star in your own video, whether your idea of hardcore is slack-lining between skyscrapers or taking a swig of milk straight from the bottle (don’t act like you haven’t done it).

Example Footage:

Along the lines of the “every day,” there’s this video of the baby on a skateboard. People enjoy it because it’s cute, simple, and accessible. There wasn’t a huge amount of skill required for this particular video (although this baby would probably disagree), so people get the sense of “Oh yea, I could maybe make something like that!”

Other videos are a bit wilder. These take you on a different kind of journey, perhaps in a plummeting-to-the-ground-in-a-freefall sort of way. They’re fun to watch because many of them give you a sense that you’re there, too. You get to see what’s going on, from a safe distance, and who knows- maybe you’ll want to go do something bold, too. For those who enjoy skydiving, surfing, taming grizzlies, running with bulls, or that sort of activity, GoPro offers a way to document it and say “Hey, check out this thing I just did!”

Kudos to GoPro for showing us how marketing, perseverance and passion can help a business flourish (even if it takes some time). Who knows if I’ll ever go skydiving or do that crazy flying squirrel thing, but if I do, you can bet I’m getting it on film.


This Week In My Brain: June 25, 2013

On this ridiculously hot day in my life, please appreciate some things that have made me think… and smile online in the last week or so. Mainly courtesy of Pinterest:










If you like these, there is more on my ‘For Thought’ Pinterest board.¬†And if you like my taste in everything (not just quotes but housewares, cool gifts, slightly offbeat sense of humor) you can follow all the boards!

Why One Woman Wrote A Whole Book From An iPhone

This morning, I heard a story ¬†on NPR about a woman who got diagnosed with ALS, a slowly degenerative disease that is eventually fatal. She spent the next year of her life living: travel with her family and doing all those other things you say you’ll do before you go.

She also wrote a book. Since at that time she only had movement in one thumb, she had her husband put her iPhobe in her non moving hand and she typed over 80,000 words with her working thumb into the Notes app on her phone (her iPad keyboard she said was too big to navigate).

I wanted to understand a bit how this felt so I typed this blog entry the same way. It was slow and I got the luxury of correcting my spelling errors, etc. on a full sized keyboard when I posted the blog.

It is amazing what the human spirit can do. Rather than seeing her limits, this woman saw her one working thumb and her still working mind and wrote the book she wanted to. Also made me realize there is more than one way to do something, even if one way takes longer and seems tedious. I thought it was the perfect thing to hear on a Sunday morning when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself feeling under the weather. Made me get up and do something with my day!

If you want to read (or hear) the interview too:

Another great story about the same woman:


Some Of My Favorite Motivational Videos

I spend a lot of time watching online video. More than I should probably admit.

Sometimes, these videos distract me. These are usually animal videos.

But other videos kind of give me some inspiration to work hard and do more. Here are three of my favorites:

Productivity from Randy Pausch

This video is about productivity and achieving dreams from a very smart charismatic professor who happens to be dying. If you want some general productivity ideas or just a kick in the pants, this will do it. Everyone from high school students to someone about to retire will get something out of this lecture.

Negotiation from Ramit Sethi

This is the only business ‘class’ I ever paid for. While aimed at freelancers, Ramit Sethi will teach you the scripts you need to negotiate. (If I’ve used any of these on you, sorry.) These series of videos are part of that course and can give you some useful tips on raising your rates, negotiating with providers, and other useful stuff.

Goal Setting With Marie Forleo

If you have a big dream you want to tackle, Marie will break down the process of brainstorming into steps you can implement. This half hour video, if you do the exercises, will give you a goal and ways to work towards it. Since I can’t embed it from her site, here’s the link:

Do you have any productivity/educational/business-y videos you like to watch? Share the links in the comments!


Writing Your First Three Blog Posts

So if you have your blog set up, the only thing to do now is write! Which is great but also can be terrifying.

three-blog-postsWhere do I start? People have asked me. Well, you have to start somewhere.

Think of these first three blog entries as your start. They’ll set the tone for you.

If you are a super planner, you may enjoy figuring out topics way ahead of time. Here’s how I do that.

But if you just want to get through these first three blog posts, pick three days you want these to publish. (Setting a deadline in your mind will force you to produce.)

Write three blog entries (one of each) about the following:

Post 1: An Introduction Blog

I am going to do something that’s a bit embarassing for me. I am going to link here to my very first blog entry back in 2007:

I cringe when I read it but hey, you got to start somewhere. (Wow, I was trying so hard!) But in any case, I set the tone for my personal finance blog in that short five paragraphs and you can too.

Think about answering the following questions in that first post:

Who are you?

What’s this blog about?

Why should I care? (If I was a complete stranger reading your blog, why should I read?)

Now you don’t need to be curing cancer here. This is a blog. You just need to have a unique voice, even if it’s a topic people are already talking about. Sure blog about your life but take a step back from it and think about making the stranger care. Whether it’s eeking out a life lesson, being funny, or showing how-t0s, think about making each blog post useful, personal, and having one topic.

Post 2: An Expertise Post

Now that you’ve introduced yourself, it’s time to show a bit of your topic. Don’t try to talk about *everything* you know about; just take a small topic and address it with confidence. Here are some ideas based on some blogger points of view:

Carpenter- Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared Of A Nail Gun
IT Person- Setting Passwords Even I Can’t Hack
Grocery Store Bagger- Why Paper Bags Are Better Than Plastic

See what I did there. We all have cool perspectives and if you just think of what people ask you about or the most interesting parts of your day, you’ll have plenty of ideas. But just start with one topic. As you see, these are narrow. You’ll use your other ideas for other posts.

Here are three examples of ‘expert’ posts I’ve written:

Post 3: The Other People Post

In this third post, you truly show your range by involving someone else.¬†The idea with involving someone else in your blog is getting people to realize it’s not all about you you you. Also, having other people’s perspectives helps you come up with fresh content.

There are plenty of ways to involve other people in your blog:

  • Interview someone (a regular customer for your business blog, a fellow knitter for your knitting blog, etc.)
  • Ask a question over Facebook or Twitter and summarize the opinions you get. (This is a bit difficult to explain but here’s someone doing that as an example:¬†
  • Write down a list of links to other blog posts you’ve been reading and what you like about them. (Bloggers call it a link roundup sometimes.)

If you want to see some examples of involving other people on this blog, here are some I’ve written:

Congratulations, you’ve written three blog entries! Now schedule them to go online the days you’ve chosen (or sit down on those days and publish them). You’re a blogger now!

If you master these three kinds of posts, you’ll no doubt have more than enough ideas to keep your blog going.

Stay tuned next week for ‘Connecting With Other Bloggers’.

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