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Whether you’re looking to compose a piece of music, write an epic novel, or just get started at something new, you’ve likely heard the advice to find something that serves as inspiration. But what on Earth does that mean? And more importantly, where can you find the words of encouragement you need to do the thing you want to do? 

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the actual definition of inspiration, share a few examples of inspiring quotes, and show you how to use those inspirational words to create something incredible.

What is Inspiration?

There are several options for an inspiration definition that we could have chosen from, but the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition seems to be the most, well, inspired of them all. 

In fact, Cambridge gives us two ways to define “inspire.”

  • Someone or something that gives you ideas for doing something
  • A sudden good idea

Simple, right? On paper, it should be. But what types of things actually inspire people to break through barriers, face challenges head-on, or start something new? Let’s take a look at a few specific examples of inspiration.

Examples of Inspiration

While everyone’s sources of inspiration will look quite different, there are a few common examples of inspiration that people tend to rely on, including:

  • The possibility of achieving something unlikely or seemingly impossible
  • Your favorite musical artists
  • The environment around you, both majestic nature and seemingly mundane places such as your living room
  • Your favorite authors, podcasters, or other influencers
  • Your past, including some of the most difficult memories from your history

These are just a few sources of inspiration to draw from. In fact, this is a good stopping point to ask yourself where you find inspiration. What motivates you to try something that you don’t think you can do? Jot down a few things and keep them at your desk.

An inspirational reminder from Pablo Picasso—and Skillshare student Lara Ge, who designed this quote.
An inspirational reminder from Pablo Picasso—and Skillshare student Lara Ge, who designed this quote.

Inspirational People

Just like your biggest sources of inspiration, the people who inspire some people might not motivate you in quite the same way. But when you search the internet for inspirational people, you tend to land on a short list of a few common names:

  • Oprah Winfrey, celebrated television host, actress, and philanthropist
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945
  • Maya Angelou, acclaimed poet known best for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Buzz Aldrin, the first man to ever walk on the moon

Again, this is just a short list of people who have made an impact on a large audience. But as you’re getting started in your search for inspiring quotes, this is a good place to start.

Synonyms for Inspiration

As you dive into inspirational quotes, you’ll find that there are a surprising number of inspiration synonyms. Here are a few to help you search for additional sources of inspiration and other quotes to motivate you:

  • Creativity
  • Inventiveness
  • Innovation
  • Ingenuity
  • Imagination
  • Originality
  • Artistry
  • Expressiveness

Inspirational Quotes

Whether you’re looking to start a new endeavor or just need a pick-me-up, there are a few inspirational quotes that you should keep in your back pocket. Here are a few of our favorites that will inspire you and teach you how to be inspirational.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

― Oscar Wilde

How often have you compared yourself to the people around you? This quote from Oscar Wilde is a good reminder to accept yourself for who you are.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

― George Eliot

Think you’re too late to start a new endeavor? George Eliot would like you to think again.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

― George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw dropped this bit of knowledge long before we were all born, but it’s still relevant today as people continue to seek their identity.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

― Helen Keller

How long have you reflected on a missed opportunity, only to realize the one in front of you is even better? That’s a question that Helen Keller would like you to answer in this long sentence full of inspirational words.

Where Else to Find Inspiration

We’ve covered several sources of inspiration, including inspirational people, quotes, and situations. But there are endless possibilities for finding inspiration. Try taking a walk around the neighborhood or a market without a pair of headphones or your phone. Or sitting down and writing for an hour without a prompt or assignment. 

Take some time to identify quiet times for you to think about, well, nothing. You’ll be amazed by how inspired you get by finding a little bit of peace in these chaotic times.

Use Science to Find Inspiration!

The Scientific Method for Artists: Find Inspiration, Get Motivated and Grow your Creative Skills