Be Playful

Catalysts of Creativity

Posted on: 8 May 2008

Photo by David Paul Ohmer.

Some days I wake up tingling with creativity and bursting with life. Other days my brain wakes up in stand-by mode and splutters slowly into existence. By the time I’ve realised that it’s morning, I’m already ready for bed.

Everyday I have to write.

Fortunately, I don’t have to come up with a masterpiece everyday; just a few news stories and the occasional academic essay. Still, sometimes I do feel inspired into creative, playful writing – and not just because I wake up in a good mood. I think it’s important to know our catalysts of creativity, so that when we need to be creative, we know where to turn.

Catalysts of Creativity

A catalyst of creativity is anything that inspires you to be creative. There are two types of catalysts of creativity – creativity-prompts, and inspirers.

Creativity-prompts are the everyday things that give us the drive to be creative. It may be the feel of soapy water when washing up, outrage at a badly written plot in a novel, or your favourite notebook.

My creativity-prompts are:

  • my beautiful moleskine notebook and parker pen
  • getting enough sleep
  • a cup of coffee or a bar of chocolate
  • appallingly written daytime TV dramas that leaves me thinking ‘I can do better than that’
  • well written blogs that ask specific questions
  • sitting in a cafe watching the world go by
  • sunshine
  • having a real typewriter on my desk

You’ll probably have noticed that some of these are best done all the time, such as getting enough sleep, and carrying my notebook everywhere. Others, such as chocolate and daytime TV, I keep as special treats for when I need that extra boost.

Photo by pasotraspaso.

Inspirations are those things that cause the muse to well up inside you. They turn the desire to be creative into creative ability. Inspirations are different for every person; they may be a poem, a painting, children playing, a novel, or an accidental daffodil on the roadside.

Some things that inspire me are:

  • Shakespeare
  • Walking in the countryside
  • Flickr photographs
  • The Bible
  • John O’Donohue
  • thought provoking questions
  • the sea
  • a real conversation

Anti-Catalysts of Creativity

As well as knowing our catalysts of creativity, it’s important to know our anti-catalysts of creativity. Anti-catalysts of creativity are those things that reduce our desire to be creative. It’s important to be aware of anti-catalysts, not to get rid of them, but to know the effect they’re having when we use them.

There are two types of anti-catalysts of creativity: creativity drainers, and reverse inspirers.

Creatvity-drainers are those things that use up our creative energy, but give little or no creative output in return. These include watching television, reading pulp fiction, computer games, and socialising. Creativity drainers are an important part of life because they are an opportunity to let out any negative creative energy that’s plaguing us, and to express ourselves creatively without needing an end result.

Some of the creativity drainers in my life are:

  • Playing on my Nintendo DS
  • Watching television (especially Eastenders, The Apprentice, and Top Gear)
  • Beer, crisps & friends at the pub
  • John Grisham

Reverse-inspirers are the inspirations that demotivate us, because they lead us to think ‘I’ll never be that good,’ or because we use them for the emotional high that they give us, and so we ignore the call of the muse. For me, the biggest reverse-inspirers are Shakespeare, who always leaves me feeling that I’ll never be able to write well, and the sea, which leaves me beautifully melancholy in a way that I don’t want to be creative, I just want to be.

Your Thoughts

What inspires you?
What are the catalysts of creativity in your life?
What about the anti-catalysts?
Are reverse-inspirers always negative?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


25 Responses to "Catalysts of Creativity"

Really liked the post David and it got me thinking about what inspires me to be creative. For me I think it is small things, like seeing a lone flower grow on desolate ground, bringing beauty to a place where most people wouldn’t consider beautiful. Working with children, I think they may be among the most creative amongst us all and I get very excited and inspired when one of them makes up a story for me. Also reading stories and honest blogs about peoples lives. This is partly why I love reading you blog so much as you openly admit your struggles as well as recommendations and achievements. It is really honest and makes me feel like I can do something too. As regards creativity-drainers I would agree with television, that is probably my biggest one.

What a wonderful post, David. You really are producing great reading here at BePlayful!
I find a lot of my inspiration in the natural world. Before setting off on a walk, I can feel my excitement bubbling up. I know before I even leave the car that I’m going to going to find wonderful things to photograph, vistas to encourage big ideas and details to inspire my words. Great stuff!

amypalko’s last blog post..Climatic Celebrations

Hi David,

What a wonderful post. I love the questions at the end.

What makes me feel creative is nature, reading comments on my blog, and writing in my grateful journal. And I find I come up with writing ideas at the oddest times….doing laundry, dishes, reading a book or while driving.

Negative people zap my creativity, as does not getting a good night’s rest.

Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Build A Pyramid – Increase Blog Traffic

Couldn’t agree more. But beer, crisps & friends at the pub are such fun!

man, I just wrote about needing a little synchronous inspiration, and bam, the very next thing I did was come here and here it is!!! thanks!

Darren Daz Cox’s last blog post..Two Sides of Your Mind-Cat Card-It Is Complicated-synchronicity

Thank you for such beautiful descriptions of the things that inspire you to be creative. Children are wonderfully creative, having such low inhibitions about what others will think of them and a mind unclouded by the worries of life. Hope you visit again soon!

Thank you for your insight. It’s just got me thinking about the times in my life when I’ve been in the natural world and feel quite low about myself – I think there are times in our when things are communicated to us that we cannot yet translate or understand, and so they end up manifesting themselves as frustrations. That said, mostly I do feel wonderful and inspired in the natural world.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I totally agree with you about beer, crisps & friends – they’re three of the best things in the world, I certainly wouldn’t want to go without them. If it wasn’t rude to get a notebook out when socialising, I’d probably be having most of my ideas when chatting with friends at the pub.

I’m glad I could help – you’re very welcome.

Tell us more about your grateful journal – I, for one, am fascinated. Negative people dampen my creativity too – although often I find I’m the most negative about my own work.

I ran my little keyboard right on over cause I was following Daz. Found all my favorite people and a great blog.

Great Day!!

Daz, I’ll follow you anywhere!

Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..A Mother’s Gratitude


You are showing really creative and thought provoking ideas in this articles. You are evolving as a rising blogging success. Keep up the good work.


Shilpan |’s last blog post..3 Guiding Principles to Find a Life Long Purpose

First, I agree with Shilpan. 🙂

Second, I am often inspired by my kids. It’s one of the great benefits of parenthood – you get to see the world through their inexperienced, innocent eyes.

Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post..Why Won’t You Post Photos of Your Kids?

David, thanks for using my “Golden Gate” photo on your fine website. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on creativity.

Thanks again!
Dave Ohmer

David … you got it man. Good show, you nailed it I loved it. Stumbled,

Damien’s last blog post..Kids, Choices, and Consequences

[…] David Masters nails it head on regarding creativit… […]

Hi David,

In response to your question, my grateful journal (some call it a gratitude journal-just ask Oprah), is a book I record at least ten things I’m grateful for each day. It can be as simple as the beautiful sunshine, or our bird feeder that attracts amazing birds that remind me to live in the moment, as I watch them fill their tummies.

It has become a daily ritual that makes me stop and celebrate all of the blessing in my life. It’s that act of gratitude/gratefulness that opens the mind and unleashes creativity.

For anyone who has never tried it, it’s well worth the effort. You get closer to your Creator, realize less is more, and you make room for more blessings to come your way.

Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Build A Pyramid – Increase Blog Traffic

Thanks for stopping by and commenting -I’m glad you ran across my blog, and I hope your keyboard survived!

Thank you again for your encouraging words. You always inspire me to keep working on my blog.

I don’t (yet!) have children of my own, but as a teenager my baby sisters used to be a big inspiration for me. Their unconditional love, even when i was in a bad mood, always made me smile.

Thank you for visiting and for your amazing photo. It was my first favourite on flickr, and I’ve been trying to think of ways to use it ever since.

Thanks for the stumble, the link, and for all your support.

Thanks for sharing – I can imagine that it must be a really powerful tool. I always find that I am happier when I feel (or choose to feel) grateful for life and all the blessings that come my way.

[…]’s Catalysts of Creativity introduces the ideas of Creativity Prompts and Inspirations: Creativity-prompts are the everyday […]

[…] Often created using words conflict, n. creativity waiting to happen; the midwife of creativity creativity, n. being yourself children, n. playful people clown, vb. making sensible look silly; turning […]

[…] Instead of arguing over disagreements, try doodling how you see the situation. Again, include words and pictures. This helps you see the conflict in a new way, and turns it into a catalyst of creativity. […]

[…] I’m headed over to check out, in greater detail, some of David’s other posts: How to be an Everyday Clown and Catalysts of Creativity. […]

My catalysts of creativity are:
*reading inspiring quotes
*reading about some-one’s authentic (usually triumph over adversity) creative successes
*seeing fantastic bits of hand-drawn art (that make me want to go and do that myself!)
*following exciting and inspiring ‘instructions’ on how to do something
*people who speak their ‘truths’ and those that have made a living from their creative endeavours
*Art books and magazines


Thanks Amelia,

That’s a great list. I particularly find quotes helpful, and reading about people whose lives embody creativity.


Very Inspiring David
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Keep up your wonderful thought sharing, story writing.!!
Margie G

[…] “A catalyst of creativity is anything that inspires you to be creative.”  Read More… […]

[…] Instead of arguing over disagreements, try doodling how you see the situation. Again, include words and pictures. This helps you see the conflict in a new way, and turns it into a catalyst of creativity. […]

[…] Often created using words conflict, n. creativity waiting to happen; the midwife of creativity creativity, n. being yourself children, n. playful people clown, vb. making sensible look silly; turning […]

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