finding inspiration featured image of creative genius Bob Ostrom

Finding Inspiration

Finding Inspiration the BobTeachesArt Way.

Each week Rob and I get together to discuss upcoming classes and posts for the site. One of the things we talk about in our strategy sessions are the things we’ve been inspired by and the things that keep us going, ranging from books to podcasts to the websites we love. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the info available these days, some amazing, some a total waste of time. You could spend hours weeding through it all looking for the good stuff or you could just check out a few of the our top recommendations for this week.

bob ostrom photoBob’s Top Picks

My top picks this week are a book, a podcast and a website (when it comes to staying motivated I like to jump around). My first recommendation is a book I read a few years ago. The book wasn’t new when I discovered it but it showed up at exactly the right time. I was in the middle of a huge project with a lot of scary deadlines creeping in. I was in crisis mode and was losing steam. I wasn’t sure where to find the motivation I needed to get through the project. I just knew that if I didn’t act soon I was going to be in trouble. I decided it was time to step away from my desk and get outside to clear my head. I figured an audiobook and a little yard work might help get me pointed in the right direction.

The Book that Changed my Life.

I had purchased a book called The War of Art based on a recommendation from of one of my favorite podcasts. I hadn’t thought much about it at the time. It just seemed like something good to cue up the next time I went out to cut the yard. Little did I know that book was about to change my life in an afternoon. I cued it up, started the mower and was blown away. It sounded like it had been written just for me. Everything I was experiencing, the creative struggle, the lack of motivation the feeling of being overwhelmed was exactly what I was going through. Not just that day but every time I sat down to create or work on a new project. It was the perfect solution. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although it slants toward writers it is essentially for all creatives.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon this is not an affiliate link, I think I grabbed my copy from iTunes. If you’re torn between picking up the written version or the audio, go with the audio. This is one of those books where the narration is really amazing and greatly adds to the presentation. Anytime I feel like I might be losing my mojo I just give The War of Art a listen, it’s the perfect solution.

F*ck the Hustle

My second recommendation is a podcast my good friend Chris Wilson ( who you may remember from Answers for Freelancers and Creative Independence) turned me on to, it’s called The Hustle Free Podcast. I love the direction Kim Doyal and her co-host Jon Perez are taking with this show which basically goes something like this… “F*ck the hustle“. 

Look around the internet these days. Everywhere you turn the message is the same. You can’t succeed as an entrepreneur without hustling. What is the hustle? Well basically it means outworking your competition. How do you do that? By any means necessary. The lengths that some people go to has become more and more ridiculous. I think I reached my breaking point with the hustle mentality when I heard an interview where the author explained, “If you don’t want success as badly as you want to take your next breath then you don’t want it badly enough”. How long can you honestly keep that up?  I don’t know about you but I’m just damn tired of hustling. I want my life back. Fortunately for me so do Kim and Jon. This podcast is dedicated to showing more rational ways to achieve success. It’s a no nonsense approach to building a hustle free income. Does that mean you won’t have to put in the work? Of course not it just means there are better way to achieve success. If you want to find out how check out The Hustle Free Podcast

Need Some Motivation?

My final recommendation is a podcast I listen to when I need something a little less business and a little more motivational. It’s call The Charged Life. It’s by motivation and personal growth expert Brendon Burchad. This podcast always has a short (10 minute or so) positive message that is sure to point you in the right direction. If you are looking for a little guidance and a positive message check out The Charged  Life – (If you like Brendon’s work be sure to check out his collection of audio books. Brendon is an excellent writer and his books are every bit as motivational as his podcast). 

The Charged Life

rob-rodeRob’s Suggestions

When it comes to a design project, whether it’s a website, an advertising piece or even packaging a PowerPoint presentation for a client, there are times when the creative juices seem to have run dry.  I know I’m not alone; I’ve had this conversation with many folks, but I’ve come to believe that the problem really isn’t a lack of creativity, but rather a block in the flow of creativity.


Yeah, I know, it sounds weird and probably more philosophical than I’m intending to be but here’s the gist: over time, the more experience you develop as well as the more projects you take on, it’s only natural that you look to your “signature” techniques when working on a project .  It could be the way you use text, or gradients, the style of photography, or even how you layout a page.  The only thing is that your “tried and true” techniques will most likely not work for every client or every project.  And that’s when the wall appears.

How to Combat “Creative Block”.

When asked about how to combat “creative block” there are a few resources I fall back on to keep things moving, and here are just a couple: is just like any other online stock image library, but instead of using the site just for photos, I often hit the site and use a search term like “techno background,” or “fabric pattern.” It’s absolutely amazing the number of designs, colors, textures, and shapes that show up which for me trigger ideas on using graphic treatments for a whole range of projects.  It could be the way a shape is used, or the arrangement of dots and lines.  And on that note, here’s another recommendation: these online libraries are free to join.  Register and set up an account, because as soon as you do, you can start creating lightboxes where you can save images according to categories that you set up for yourself.  I’ve got a bunch of lightboxes going and I’ll go back to them to help recharge the creative batteries.

The Graphic Design Annual.

Another source of inspiration for me is the Graphic Design Annual which is sponsored by Graphic Design USA (, and for that matter, I’d suggest signing up for their magazine.  It’s free.  You can’t beat that.  The Annual is chock-full of all sorts of design ideas that are submitted by other creatives, so you get to see the types of projects that other professionals have worked on including logos, advertising design, websites, promotionals, packaging, brochures and a ton more.

Walk away!

Walk away.  Seriously.  When I’m in the grind and things aren’t totally “clicking,” what I’ll often do is step away from the computer and focus on something else for a bit.  I will say that this is where discipline is key because you don’t want to abandon a project, you’re only giving yourself an opportunity to give yourself some space.  Some breathing room if you will. Tony Robbins calls it “breaking the pattern” where redirecting your focus helps to establish new thought patterns.  Here’s a classic example: ever hear of someone coming up with a great idea while taking a shower?  Know why that happens?  It’s because changing our environment can actually help change our thought patterns.  For some folks, that means breaking away to play an instrument or listen to some music, do a little yard work, or in my case, I like to build models so I’ll put something together for a few minutes. The danger here is that you could get side-tracked for a while, so set a time limit to avoid project abandonment. 

So the next time you feel like you’re hitting the wall, give these strategies a try.  And by all means, let us know your secrets for avoiding the rut; we’d love to hear from you!

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