27 March 2009

Inspiration Board

I've had a functioning home office for less than a year now, but it's easily my favorite room in our house. It's a lovely space on the second floor, tailored to my every need by my wonderful (and handy) husband, including plenty of natural light, extra-wide, extra-deep shelving for 11" x 17" layouts, built-in drawers for stationery and office supplies, and a big stuffed reading chair that rocks and reclines. In a word, heaven.

And yet, until recently, something had been missing. I'd feel it especially when sitting at my desk. Sure, I had a mug overflowing with pens, a framed photo or two, the requisite crocheted hotdog. But I needed something more. I needed inspiration.

I've spent a lot of time in the workspaces of my fellow "creatives" (editors, designers, et al), all of whom have an inspiration board of one kind or another. This is either an actual corkboard, or just the nearest wall, on which they've affixed all manner of ephemera — snippets of text, images downloaded from the web or clipped from magazines, funky postcards, movie posters, CD covers, successful (and unsuccessful) book jackets, and other evocative bits and bobs. In short, it's a bit like looking into that person's brain, at the creative potpourri whirling around inside. 

As we're doing creative work, it helps to have external stimuli to motivate and inspire us, especially as most of us spend so much time at our desks, away from the actual outside world. Hence, the inspiration board.

That's what I was missing. So, for Valentine's Day, ever-handy hubs took two vintage frames, some spraypaint, some foamcore, and some cork sheeting, and voila! My office was finally complete. (One of the two boards is pictured above.)

If you haven't already, I highly recommend assembling an inspiration board for yourself.  It could be a simple as taping your favorite quote to the wall over your computer or drawing table, or you could get yourself a little (or not-so-little) corkboard and go crazy. You could even tailor your board to whatever you're working on — images and quotes from an appropriate time period if you're writing historical fiction, photos from a particular locale to help you flesh out your setting, or photos of yourself as a kid if you're trying to get back in touch with your inner child.

So far, my own inspiration boards aren't as full as they could be — building them is a slow process. But here are a few things I've already put on display, to keep myself creatively-stimulated, not to mention amused:

1. A set of retro-80s ribbon barrettes, made for me by a particularly crafty author
2. A card featuring a dog standing on its hind legs while its owner awards him with a treat, under which another author of mine has written "The Editor-Writer Relationship"
3. A photo of my sister, age 8 or so, smiling while sliding headfirst down a slide, wearing a swimcap and goggles
4. A printout of my latest mantra, a quote by Octavia Butler: "Habit is more important than inspiration." 
5. A ridiculously lame toy from the 70s, in the form of an orange chenille worm with googly eyes, which I desperately wanted as a child, recently reissued (and renamed, inexplicably, "Squirmles") and bought for me by my sister at Target
6. A certain pithy fortune cookie fortune

What's on your inspiration board?


  1. What a beautiful job your hubby did! It's lovely.

    My board is just your standard cork variety bought at Walmart - every so often I post a photo of it on my blog. You'll have to do the same -so we can see your inspiration growing!

  2. I will definitely post my progress!

    Another idea (which I am saving for my kitchen) is a chalkboard wall. Mo Willems painted his entire dining room with green chalkboard paint, which looks phenomenal.

  3. Ooooo! Yes. My daughter's room has a two 1/2 foot wide strip of black chalkboard paint down her longest bedroom wall, a soft calming green above and below it. She mapped out many a story on that wall!