If you want to remain productive and have ideas when you need them most, the stimuli you allow into your mind are important.

Because creativity is essentially the combining of existing bits of inspiration into something new, the quality and relevance of your inputs will often directly affect your creative output.

One question that I often get is “where do you find inspiring stimuli?” People know that I read a lot, and that I have dedicated time on my calendar each day to “fill the well”, but they wonder how I find the books (the ones I share in my newsletter and on my bookshelf) and resources that inform my creative process. The answer is actually quite simple. I ask people I admire, “what’s inspiring you right now?”

Whom do I ask? Anyone I find interesting. It doesn’t matter if we’ve just met or if we’re old friends. I find that the best quality stimulus often come from the least expected places. (Two of my favorite books of all time were discovered by asking an old friend for recommendations.)

Here’s a homework assignment (should you choose to accept it):
1. Choose three people you admire.
2. Either draft an e-mail, or if you’ll see them this week, ask them in person.
3. In the e-mail or conversation, ask them for the best thing they’ve read lately, the best documentary or movie they’ve seen, or the experience they’ve had that most impacted them.
4. Keep a running list of responses. Choose one.
5. Start dedicating time each day (even 15 minutes) to absorbing the new stimuli.
6. If something strikes you as especially profound, take a few minutes to jot a thank you note to the person for recommending it to you and how it affected you. It’ll make their day.

Just like a cared-for garden will grow and reproduce, your creativity will flourish when nourished. If you want better creative ideas, you need better input. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Take the time to inspire yourself.

So… you first. I’m looking for some new inspiration. What’s inspiring you right now? Please share in the comments!

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