When It Hits the Brain, It Feels So Good

2010 February 18
by Grace Boyle

When inspiration* hits me it’s like a full on explosion in my brain and heart. I can’t ignore it. My fingers start to tingle and the synapses in my brain go off in a million different directions. I also start to grin, to myself.

Photo Credit

You can imagine me now, right? Naturally, I have to go with it and I don’t stop until I’m done.

Here’s what I run with when I’m hit with the inspiration train:

  • Always keep a journal/paper/notebook on you. This means even if you’re in the middle of a board meeting,  at work, or you’re asleep, you have a moment and the option to jot down the idea. Sometimes inspiration is fleeting and that very moment, can be crucial.
  • Run with it. It’s Midnight – I have to work early the next morning and my eyelids are heavy but I have a blog post that is brewing and I can’t stop writing until it’s finished. These are always my best even when it came from an inopportune time. Furthermore, I can actually pride myself by acting on my inspiration and not ignoring it (e.g. moving to Boulder, creating five internships in college, collaborating on this series, spontaneous trips to the mountain, etc.)
  • After running with it, remember to stew it. Sometimes the inspiration comes in such a wave I don’t have time to think it through. This can be good and sometimes bad. Inspiration is organic and in its true form, raw. However, to execute the inspiration it often needs to be fine tuned. This may take time, that’s okay.
  • Keep your inspiration(s) in one place. I have journals with ideas, songs, titles, people, companies I want to start, doodles with notes  and tear stains in the margin kept in a special drawer in my room. I go back to them as a source of inspiration and a reminder of what I’ve had and potentially, what still might be there.
  • Don’t ignore inspiration. I hear so many people say they have great ideas in the shower or as they’re drifting off to bed, then they don’t do anything. I really believe it comes for a reason and that it shouldn’t be ignored. Sure, you can say if it was important I will remember it later (definitely can be true) but why wait?

Shit, with life in general, why wait?

How do you store, use and execute your inspirations?

*Inspiration is just one of those overused, annoying words. Forgive me, at least I footnote it, right?

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  • http://modite.com Rebecca

    Yeah, I never remember it later. When I’m feeling particularly filled with inspiring thoughts and ideas, I always bring a notepad to bed. I’m surprisingly good at writing in the dark :) Great post! Have you seen that video from Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity/inspiration? I’m sure you have. I like how she talks about that you don’t have to just “catch” your genius, that you can make it work for you. I’m not there yet though, of course…

  • http://doniree.com/ doniree

    I love this! I've been told I get a crazy look in my eye when something clicks, something hits me, or I suddenly get that wave of inspiration. I've been called a mad scientist, ha. I totally get the excitement and the tingles though!

  • http://samdavidson.net/blog Sam Davidson

    Grace – your posts are useful and insightful. Thanks for that.

    I, too, write ideas and inspiration down as soon as possible. Then, I let it marinate. This is tricky because sometimes, two weeks later, I have no idea what “car horn microwave” means.

    I also share early ideas with a close circle of peers. That helps the best ones rise to the top.

  • http://modite.com/ Rebecca

    Yeah, I never remember it later. When I'm feeling particularly filled with inspiring thoughts and ideas, I always bring a notepad to bed. I'm surprisingly good at writing in the dark :) Great post! Have you seen that video from Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity/inspiration? I'm sure you have. I like how she talks about that you don't have to just “catch” your genius, that you can make it work for you. I'm not there yet though, of course…

  • http://ryanstephensmarketing.com/blog/ ryanstephens

    I'm the same way Grace, except that when I'm tired I try to scribble enough of it down so that I can flesh it out a bit more tomorrow. A lot of times I'll write something really quickly while 'in the zone' and then just save it for a re-read/revisions in the morning just in case it didn't make sense.



  • http://25andtrying.com Beth Oppenheim

    I love your ideas about revisiting inspirations from the past – they are sometimes really good sources of what your true dreams are (or were) and what you can still do about them. I have begun the journal thing recently (carrying one around at all times…) and you are right – it is really rewarding to NOT ignore inspiration. It should be captured and used. Great stuff :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Doni Ha, yes, the crazy eye look. I love that!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @SamDavidson Thank you for your kind words! A few other people have mentioned that they don't remember their odd notes or 'in the moment' jotting down the inspiration(s). I try to be as clear as possible so I cannot forget. I like the idea about sharing with others, too!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Rebecca If my memory serves me correctly, I remember you tweeting something like “damn you inspiration and your inopportune times,” as you were staying up late to write a blog post (I have a steel trap odd memory). Anyway, I thought about you/that while I was writing :) I love Elizabeth Gilbert, should revisit her talk.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan Sam Davidson said the same thing! I giggle to myself thinking about all the odd thoughts that I have and looking back at scrap pieces of paper. That's why I try to be as clear as possible. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Beth Definitely! I did a photo-a-day project in March of last year then posted it on the blog. You would be amazed at what carrying a camera with you everywhere does–I only mention this because of how it is to be carrying a journal. It gives you a medium to portray the inspiration! Thanks for sharing :)

  • andreavlewis

    When my brain isn't mush, I store it there, but unfortunately the mush factor's odds are very high, so I've learned to carry around little notebooks, that I can easily jot down ideas as they come. Afterwards, I'll transfer them onto a clean sheet of paper and blow them up, as they say in the advertising agency world, or try to, at the very least.

  • http://www.allybspeakin.com AllyB

    Great post. That is all.

  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

    I love my notebooks laying about. I have one in my living room, one in my nightstand, one in my purse, one in my office, one in my Jeep…shall I go on?

    One thing I have discovered, though…you can't take notes in a notebook while you are driving. And because of my job I spend a LOT of time on the road. So I was messing around on my phone, and I discovered “voice notes.” It's a digital voice recorder that I can think out entire blog posts on. It's fantastic!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ali Thank you :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Elisa Ooh, love that you have notebooks everywhere. My kinda lady 😉 And good call with the voice notes on your phone. I do have good ideas while driving and I have written on a piece of paper, on my steering wheel. Shh, don't tell anyone!

  • http://www.lifewithoutpants.com Matt Cheuvront

    I'm the same way Grace, and I have a TON of drafts sitting in my WordPress que that may have a couple sentences of thoughts, something for me to come back to later. NEVER stifle your creativity – even if it isn't a complete thought, write it down, sleep on it, and approach it with renewed energy after taking a bit to mull it over. Good stuff Grace!

  • http://lamiki.com/ Laura Kimball

    My notebooks are probably some of the most treasured things I own. I once joked to a friend that it would destroy me if I ever lost them–and I'm talking about notebooks that date back to middle school, etc.

    This part of your post really resonated with me:

    “Don’t ignore inspiration…I really believe it comes for a reason and that it shouldn’t be ignored. Sure, you can say if it was important I will remember it later (definitely can be true) but why wait?”

    You're right, don't ignore it. I feel like inspiration is very much related to your instinct, your “gut,” if it's loud enough, why aren't you listening?

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Andrea Our brain stores so much normally in everyday life that the little pieces of inspiration have to not only be in our brains, but also kept in secret places that we know are online or hard copies :) That's what I have found. I like the idea you have of blowing them up, like a story board! Good call!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Matt Good call on the WordPress drafts. I didn't mention that, but I will see an article or idea and I will create a draft but just leave it there too. It's always nice to head to the drafts and see how I feel or if I really want to elaborate on them. Thanks, Matt!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Laura I love hearing about your notebooks. I love mine too. As geeky and digital as I am, hard copy and writing pen to paper will never be replaced to me. Thanks for sharing, Laura :)

  • http://michellecagonot.wordpress.com/ Michelle

    This is just the post I needed. Inspiration always comes to me in the shower and I feel so determined to do things…but by the time I get out and get changed I kind of lose it. Strange! I definitely need to start listening to myself more and writing things down. Thanks!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Michelle Thank you! I'm happy to hear it was just what you needed to hear :) I definitely suggest trusting your gut and the organic inspiration that pops into your mind. It's there for a reason :) Thanks for sharing.

  • Ashalah

    I am totally there with the excitement and tingles but I have a REALLY bad habit of not witing down my ideas and then completely forgetting what it was. I need to get better at carrying a notebook around with me to jot all these things down.

    I do have a journal at home where I write all sorts of different inspirational stuff and just about whats going on in my life because i tend to forget the little stuff. I never really did this though until I went to Europe and it was so fulfilling to have it then and now even more so to look back on. Great post! :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ashleyyyyy Yes! The Europe example is perfect. It's so important to write down those little details, besides photos, how will we remember the way the food market smelled, your hostel mate's laugh or the way the wine tasted :)

  • http://caligater.com/ Cali Harris

    It's clearly impossible for you to share anything that isn't brilliant. {No pressure. ;)}

    Heavens. I have scraps of paper, beer coasters, gum wrappers and torn-up bill envelopes that have bits and pieces of ideas or words or drawings. I keep a journal (okay I keep, like, three) and index-size notecards with me at all times. I use the notes feature on my iPhone. And of course various word docs on my computer. Organized inpsiration. 😉

    I lurve that you include stewing an idea. That's critical in my process–most of the time.

    YOU = inspiring. :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Cali Aw, dear, thank you! I love the mixture of bills, beer coasters, etc. with notes on them. That is a true inspirational artist, I like to say. Let's get together soon! Thanks for sharing!!

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