Cultivating Inspiration from the Muck

Inspiration is… hard.

At least, it is for me. Perhaps it’s because my job is so creatively demanding that I feel like I always have to come up with something inspiring and creative and new. And yet, deep down, I often feel cynical and doubtful and well… uninspired.

I don’t want EVERYTHING I create to be dark and twisty, (like my soul), but let’s admit it--almost all of my inspiration is cultivated in the muck of my coffee black soul (not that I EVER believe in drinking coffee black--what are we, cave people???).

I’m sure my process for, MAKING, inspiration is not terribly unique, but I hope a few of these morsels become hidden gems in your creativity toolkit and help you to cultivate your own inspiration. OH, and if you stick around to the end, you’ll find my latest inspired moment--a new spoken word piece. :)

Ten Things I do to Cultivate Inspiration

I say inspiration, not creativity, because sometimes what comes of it is creation...and sometimes it is MOTIVATION, both of those are rooted in being inspired.

So, here we go:

10. Keep a journal. Yes, like just do it. It sounds maybe so obvious, but seriously. I actually learned this when I was going through a particularly difficult cynical time of my life (yes, I know I’m still fairly cynical), and I just felt like everything was kind of horrible. I was told by a wise counselor to keep a journal and to write down every day what happened as objectively as possible. This allowed me to see the patterns, whether good or bad, that were happening in my life. It helped me as an artist by seeing unhelpful patterns, and also to note where and when I felt my best. It’s good for your mental health but it ALSO helped me find inspiration--hey, if I’m struggling with this thing, perhaps others are too.

9. Look epically at small things. This can be linked to #10 or doesn’t have to be. But it’s the training of your mind to PAY ATTENTION to all the things that seem perhaps “mundane” and “everyday” and instead, to see them as EPIC. Pay attention to the fine lines created by the veins in a leaf, or the way your 13 year old’s eyes nearly disappear when he’s laughing. It’s letting the vanilla foam from your cappuccino sit in your mouth for an extra second before you swallow it...literally, stopping to smell the roses. It is the things we often take for granted that are truly the foundation of our beings. And so, there is nothing more epic than that! If we can train ourselves to truly behold these every day epic happenings, it can be a birthplace for all sorts of inspiration.

8. Find a mentor or life coach. Honestly, we don’t all need a therapist. Well, maybe we do, but having a fellow artist that can mentor or just counsel us and remind us that the unique challenges of an artist do not make us crazy or unproductive in society, or even just having that person that we can go to for advice about where to go next or help hash out why we're stuck or how to go from being a starving artist to a working artist. Side note: If you’re looking for mentorship, I’m also happy to help! I have over a decade of career counseling under my belt and would LOVE to help you come up with a plan to take your art and allow it to become you J-O-B. Quit the day job. Create art instead!

7. You are who you hang with. This is a bit of a passion of mine and it’s because I KNOW how important it is. Hanging out with fellow creatives makes me more creative. It's iron sharpening iron. Spending time with people who passionately pursue their passions inspires me to do the same. When I hang out with people who make excuses rather than progress… it drains me. It tempts me to be lethargic. It’s totally fine to have friends who aren’t as passionate as we are, who aren’t entrepreneurs, or who simply have different priorities. Just remember--we will become like the 5 people we spend the most time with, so we must choose wisely. I am incredibly blessed by the creative geniuses in my life, such as the very talented, Alissa Hall, who forwarded the 100 Days challenge I talk about in #2.

6. Intentional Growth. This seems so obvious, but when is the last time you took a class (check out the studio--we have several happening!), read a book in your field, attended a workshop (our artist co-op has some pretty cool ones) or went on an artist retreat? It’s hard to find time, so we must be intentional. When I learn new things about my craft, I get EXCITED to try out the new things. It inspires me. So, sign up for that class, pick up that book. Zoom into an online seminar. Be intentional about growing as an artist.

5. Waste time. Sounds dumb, perhaps? But really, if you’ve tried all the other things, scroll through facebook or insta. Sip on a coffee and people watch. Lay in bed and stare at the ceiling. Go for a nature walk or go to the gym. Sometimes, we just need to get our mind OFF of creating in order for creativity to find us. So, never feel bad about the idea of “wasting time”. Some of my greatest ideas occurred while eating potato corner at the mall when I “should have been working”.

4. Don’t finish. Really. It’s ok. You do not have to have a complete idea. Don’t worry about it being complete. I’ve had 2 lines of a poem written in my journal for the last several weeks. I don’t know when it will get finished, but I’ll add more to it when the words speak to me. Start. Just put in what you have. Trust the process. It will come to you. And if it doesn’t...well, who’s to say my two line poem is incomplete? Nobody. That’s right.

3. Self care. You’ve heard it a million times. I much prefer the way Zelda (one of our awesome staff) says it--taking care of yourself. The truth is, although starvation and lack of sleep may cause us to be delusional, this is NOT the kind of out of body experience that will help us create well. In order for our brains to work, we must take care of them. In order for our bodies to create, we must nurture them. We already know this. So let's do it. Take care of YOU (and perhaps poke and remind me to do the same?).

2. BE CONSISTENT. Hahahaahahahahhhhaaaa. Ok So the truth is being consistent is the hardest thing to do. It is just really hard--especially when you are your own boss and the only one holding you accountable. If you need help, this is one thing a great life coach or mentor helps with. Set an alarm. MAKE time in your schedule every day, and be consistent. We already know--our brain is a muscle. And that muscle needs consistent exercise to stay on top of our “A Game”. I know that my brain is well trained by now. It starts working on schedule--right after my first cup of coffee--and peters out at about 5:30pm. That’s quite convenient. AND I’ve noticed that I have fewer “wake up at 2 in the morning with an idea” events. It’s as if my brain knows it can wait until morning to tell me it’s latest idea. Need help being consistent? Me too. Today is a GREAT DAY to start--join the 100 Days Project. It's an arts challenge that asks you to create something over the next 100 days and to work on it every single day and post about it. LET'S GO!! Technically, it started yesterday, but that's ok--just join now!! Here's a link for more info:

1. Don’t think. Just write. Or paint. Or sew. Or film. Or whatever. Don’t think too much. Just DO IT. My english students used to HATE this, but I made them do it every day for 10 minutes at the beginning of class. Honestly, it was mostly to ensure that I got in my consistent 1 hour of time in (10 minutes per period for 6 periods a day) to write, even if I had to grade 127 papers that night. It made them better writers. It made me a better writer. AND forcing myself to just do it also meant that, even if it wasn’t “GOOD”, I was creating every single day. I’m not a big sports fan, but I remember hearing that Kobe Bryant was such a good basketball player because he was constantly in the paint, shooting. Over and over and over and over. He took more shots than other players. And so, he scored more than other players. It’s simple math. The more things you create, the more likely you are to have a masterpiece.

Also, remember--EVERYTHING you create is a masterpiece, because it is a piece of you, and YOU are a masterpiece.

Anyway, I hope those 10 things help you curate some inspiration. As promised, here’s my latest piece of poetry. If you want to see me perform this piece to some music by Daniel Holliday and choreography by Jake Allen Sheets and Gary Choi, tune in to Comcast channel 27 on February 20 at 9am for my new show—The Neu Agenda!

I would also LOVE to hear your tips and tricks for finding inspiration. Comment them below or send me an email! As always, I wish you the best.

All my love,



By Candice Neu

The dawn encroaches upon the horizon

Crimson and gold

The beating is steady

Drums echoing upon the wind

She retrieves her blade

And turns to face the horizon

The music is singing

The drums are still beating

A new day

The battle begins

The war raging within

Old wounds scarring over

New abrasions sting from the tears

on her cheek

She stands

She breathes

She fights

Each day a new insurgence

Of words

Of fears

Of doubts

Within her something lingers

A shadow that desires to be seen

A shade yearning to be known

A whisper longing to be heard

To not merely fade

In the dawning of the light

Though Broken and bruised

from the dust she rises

Through the muck and the mire

From the ashes and the fire

Her soul ignites

The dawning of a new day

same demons to fight

Yet this lotus is blooming by Dawn’s last light

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