Friday, April 24, 2015

"So what can you do when inspiration seems far off?"

by Matt Ehlenbach 

Unless you find yourself working on a creative writing piece, inspiration can seem like a strange component of the writing “formula.”  Especially when crafting an academic piece, you might find yourself asking, “Why do I need inspiration to analyze something? Shouldn’t it be pretty straightforward?” As most of us know, sometimes it is that straightforward. Other times, not so much.

While the necessity for inspiration might be broadly understood in the humanities, inspiration can be equally important in the “drier” subjects like economics or physics.  Inspiration feeds your intellectual efforts in myriad ways, impacting the research process, the crafting of research questions, as well as rhetorical choices.  When you feel uninspired, you can even suffer from writer’s block.

For many of us, inspiration comes from intellectual curiosity or drive and grows out of a desire to trace an idea from its beginnings to its logical conclusion.  This does not necessarily apply equally to all subjects, though.  When you aren’t interested in the particular assignment or class that you’re working on, this can seem difficult.  This can also be challenging when the prompt for the paper you’re writing seems either too simple or too complex. 

So what can you do when inspiration seems far off?  Below are four ways to help you take your mind off of your academic troubles and find a little inspiration to work on those academic papers.

1.)   Take a mental break.

Do something that you enjoy that isn’t immediately related to the paper you’re working on.  Whether that entails working on another (more personally engaging) assignment, playing a musical instrument, or even going for a(nother) cup of coffee, take your lack of inspiration as an opportunity to reinvest in other parts of your life, not just as a means of procrastination.  According to Huffington Post blogger Chris Bar√©z-Brown, inspiration necessitates that the brain be in an “alpha state” or a state “of light relaxation where we are able to freely associate, access our subconscious and link various thoughts in unique ways.”   Those links could be the basis for your next paper!

2.)   Get up and MOVE!

Though the link between physical activity and cognitive function has been well documented, researchers at Stanford University have recently demonstrated that the physical activity necessary to improve cognitive function can be as mild as walking on a treadmill or around the block. Though walking won’t necessarily make you smarter, the simple act of doing so can boost cognitive functions and might lead you to an inspired idea for that paper on Kant! 

3.)   Sleep.

According to Lifehacker, simple as it sounds, a good night’s sleep can be instrumental in finding inspiration for those academic papers.  When you’re tired, your brain suffers.  The fatigue associated with not sleeping can impair the cognitive processes that help you come up with those great ideas for that paper on Kant.  I know it’s tempting to stay up all night to work on that paper, but consider taking a nap first if you find yourself lacking the creative bug.

4.)   Go somewhere else.

Sometimes when we try to write papers, we’re just not in a great place to do it.  Occasionally we find ourselves in spaces that are too loud or too quiet, or that just don’t jive with our working style.  Even if the noise level is fine, every so often the space that you’re working in can add to your to-do list or be otherwise off-putting.  Sometimes getting up and going somewhere else can be all it takes to de-clutter your mind and find the inspiration you need to get started on your paper.  When you’re lacking in inspiration, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little and try something new. 

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