How Do You Find Creative Inspiration?

Friday 15 September 2017 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

The idea to paint some dried thistle heads I’d found on one of my forays into the natural world felt electrifying.

I was drawn to them by the wonderful shape and structure of the sharp spikes at the top of the long, thin stems.

At seven years old, I didn’t hesitate in laying out paints and brushes on the low white table I used for my varied projects. I remembered to wear my red apron, and even put a layer of newspaper underneath, just as I’d been taught to do.

This was going to be fun!

Covered in Colour

I chose the largest brush and joyfully began to paint the first thistle head – first one colour, then another and another.

It was tricky to get the paint right inside the spiky head so that all of the thistles were covered in colour, but I found a way with a mixture of different-sized brushes.

The stem was easy and quick to do, and soon my first one was complete.

Complete Immersion

I didn’t stop there.

Immersed completely in the process and utterly oblivious to anything else, I continued to paint all of the thistle heads in my collection using a multitude of colours in different combinations.

Transforming these dramatic brown gifts from nature into the brightly coloured visions of my imagination absorbed me completely.

Even the sharp points of the spikes pricking my small fingers didn’t deflect the momentum of this creative endeavour.

When I ran out of thistle heads, I ran downstairs, excitedly looking for my mother to show her what I’d created.

Creative Fruits

I led her back to my room, where the fruits of my efforts were displayed.

At first she smiled and seemed pleased to see what I’d come up with. Then her gaze was drawn away from my beautiful thistle heads to the walls of my room.

Her sharp intake of breath directed my eyes towards what had stopped her in her tracks. A mass of multi-coloured specks of paint now adorned the area around my creative space.

Improvement on Plain?

My immediate reaction was to see this as an improvement on the plain colour underneath, but I soon realized from the look on my mother’s face that she didn’t approve.

I’d been so absorbed in my creative process that I hadn’t noticed how each brushstroke on each spike had flicked colour onto the walls as well as onto my cherished thistle heads.

My heart sank as I realized what had happened and I spent the next few hours helping my mother wash the paint off the walls before it became a permanent feature!*

Naturally Inquisitive

Like most young children, I was naturally inquisitive; I loved exploring and building dens and generally felt inspired by everything.

Yet as my “education” continued, the focus on what I should be doing started to take over and I increasingly lost touch with the effortless flow of childhood.

I forgot how – and where – to find creative inspiration, and it felt like my colourful world had faded to black and white.

Over the years that followed, my natural creative spirit did surface and find expression in some delightfully surprising ways but it was a largely unconscious process and undeniably unpredictable!

Turning Point

The major turning point in relation to rediscovering and fully reclaiming creative inspiration as one of the “non-negotiables” in my life came following an accident in my mid 30s that changed everything.

By this time I’d cultivated enough awareness to make conscious choices and I set about rebuilding my health and my life with creativity at the core.

This commitment to honouring my creative soul opened the way for me to begin finding inspiration again in all kinds of unexpected places through clearing the conditioned filters that had temporarily obscured my vision and blocked my action.

Inspiration Everywhere

Today, I see and feel inspiration everywhere through every shade of every colour and every mood of nature, meditation, movement, music, reading, cooking, connecting with like minded others… the list is endless!

I’ve taken quantum leaps in expanding my natural affinity with creative inspiration and have returned from the wilderness to be and do what I’m here to be and do.

Perhaps most importantly this includes living consciously and creatively in alignment with my soul and experiencing the privilege of teaching and guiding others to do the same.

That is where I find the greatest inspiration of all.

How and where do you find creative inspiration? Please share your comments below.

* Extract from Conscious Writing: Discover Your True Voice through Mindfulness and More (Part 2: Diving into Creative Flow page 69)

Further Resources

  1. Boost Your Creativity through Nature
  2. Spring Equinox Inspiration for Conscious Creatives
  3. See a curated list of the 15 best TED talks for creatives here.



  • I’m reading some of Willa Cather’s works right now and feel very inspired to write. She is an amazing story teller, uses description in a way that cancels the need for many words, and creates another world for the reader to enter for a while. Truly inspiring.

    Of course, Nature will always be my favorite source of inspiration~~especially the trees. They model and message more than I can take in at times.

    • Hi Helen, I’m not familiar with Willa Cather’s work but it’s lovely to hear that you find her writing so inspiring. Thank you for sharing that and perhaps it will encourage others to check out her books.

      Yes, I’m with you regarding nature being right at the top of the list of sources of inspiration 🙂

    • Hello Jo, yes, that would have been a very different response! And I know what you mean about there being more important things than the way a wall looks. However, in all honesty, I’ve learnt a great deal from that scenario and here I am sharing it all these years later hopefully for the benefit of others…

      So how you react to experiences in life are the real determining factor; but who knows how things would have turned out had she laughed and encouraged me? Perhaps I’d have ended up as a painter instead of an author!

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