I've learned that inspiration is not a fairy princess that arrives at your desk the moment you sit down to write, or draw, or paint. It doesn't tap you on the shoulder and giggle as it floats away, leaving you in a state of uncontainable inspiration and creativity. This has not been my experience, at least.
For me, inspiration is more like a muscle that I have to flex daily, if only in the simplest of ways. The more intentional I am about stretching that muscle and opening myself up to the beauty of the world around me, the more "eureka!" moments I tend to have.
Here are some things I try to do often to avoid getting into a creative rut.
1. Challenge yourself with simple, attainable goals. Set goals that are both in and out of your areas of expertise. Try to take a photo a day, even if all you have is a point-and-shoot you got for your nineteenth birthday (or maybe that's just me?) Write some poetry if you've never tried it.
2. Morning pages. If you are in the least bit interested in writing, you have to read Julia Cameron's The Right to Write. In it, she highly promotes Morning Pages, which are three pages of writing you do first thing every morning, when your mind is fresh and new. They can be about anything--a story, a journal entry, why you hate your job, what you're thankful for, whatever. Just watch what happens when you get into the habit of moving a pen across a page every day; it'll set the tone for your day.
3. Keep a journal. I've kept a journal since I was eight years old, but until recently my entries were little more than recaps of my day ("I tripped again in front of all the boys in gym class," etc.) Now my journal is a little bit of everything: quotes from songs and books, prayers, lists, funny conversations I overhear in coffee shops, goals. As a writer I like to "collect" these things and have them to look back on when I need some ideas or a creative boost.
4. Cut and paste. Hang on to things that catch your eye--clips from a magazine, pretty coffee cozies, unique business cards. I like to bust out my washi tape and compile them all in a moleskine book (okay, technically it's faux moleskine. I'm cheap like that.) Sometimes I'll cut out pictures of people and write out their whole backstory, as elementary school as that sounds. It's actually a lot of fun! If you don't have a stack of magazines laying around, go to Barnes and Noble, order yourself a latte, and flip through your favorite magazines, pen and journal in hand. I love to flip through The Simple Things, it always leaves my mind bursting with new ideas.
5. Become a list person. Lists always inspire creativity for me unless it's a grocery list. Every week or so I write a "Happy Things" list of simple pleasures that week. Some people write out what they're thankful for, things they want to try, etc. Simple, easy, fun.
Stay inspired, friends!