On Capturing Inspiration

Hassan Karimi
3 min readNov 11, 2023

1. All creatives have an inkling to capture inspiration.

According to his son, Victor Hugo would transcribe every conversation he could over hear and many of his character dialogues in his novels came from those transcriptions. The film director, David Lynch uses an audio recorder to collect evocative sounds that might be useful as “fire wood” for future projects.

2. The habit of creating itself is a practice of capturing inspiration.

In the TED Talk titled Your elusive creative genius, Elizabeth Gilbert, writer of Eat, Pray, Love, talks about a moment where the singer-songwriter Tom Waits expressed that he no longer captures inspiration whenever it randomly decides to show up. Instead, he externalized the source of inspiration as whimsical muse that he’ll only listen to in opportune moments.

William Faulkner is quoted as saying, “I only write when I’m inspired, fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

Instead of waiting for inspiration, the author James Altucher opts to proactively write down 10 ideas everyday.

3. While others are more stringent around capturing ideas.

In the book Ideaflow, Jeremy Utley says writing down an idea signals to our brain that it matters and increases our chance of remembering. In the book, he cites multiple examples of himself or other creatives keeping a notepad by their bedside to capture ideas in the middle of the night.

4. Creative project containers.

In The Creative Habit, written by dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, she shares that each of her projects have their own box. All things related to that project are gathered and dumped into that physical box and whenever she returns to the project she reviews the items in the box.

This makes me think about sketchbooks that artists and designers use. At Apple, the Head of Design, Jony Ives would have his designers sketch out ideas in sketchbooks at the beginning of every project. The design team then gets together, reviews the ideas, and they build from there. In most design environments I’ve been a part of, sketchbooks are personal tools, I’m fascinated with sketchbooks as part of a formal collaborative process.

5. It’s not just about the idea, but the emotions evoked by the idea.

The Pulitzer Prize winning rapper Kendrick Lamar is an avid note-taker. He gets inspired by all sorts of things and many come from conversations with people. When he jots down his notes, he not only captures the event, but the emotion he felt.

Ethno-botanist and writer Wade Davis shared on the Tim Ferriss Show about his system of capturing wow points. Whenever he’s doing research and discovers something new that makes him say ‘wow,’ he notates it as a wow point and captures why it provoked him. This way when he goes back to write, he can vividly remember that experience and communicate the significance of the discovery to his readers.

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Hassan Karimi

UX/ product former architectural designer writing about building a creative practice in modern times