The purpose of this post is simple. I receive many questions/comments about the subject of inspiration. If you saw my post about etiquette on social media, you know I believe that the more you exercise your creative mind, the “fitter” it becomes. I create mood boards ALL the time. In case you didn’t know, I’m an art director by trade, and a mood board is very often the first thing I will show a client/project manager to visually illustrate a concept before that concept goes on to become a campaign, book, logo or what-have-you. But I also create them just because I love doing it and have done so since I was around 9! They can be totally random and based on my actual mood, or inspirational, or even a visualisation/manifestation tool.

Yesterday, as I sat at my computer, an idea came to me. I happened across an image of a beautiful black and white pasta dish; not a black and white photograph, but an actual dish made of black and white ingredients. And I suddenly felt compelled to create a very quick and simple mood board with the theme “black and white”. I don’t exactly know why, but I gave myself 30 minutes to complete the task, finding images online that resonated with me in some way and worked together somehow. I randomly picked 4 categories based on the first four images that struck me, hence the images are grouped as ‘words’, ‘nails’, ‘food’ and ‘interiors’. But really, they could have been chairs, dresses, chocolates… or anything. 😛 It was very important to me, however, that the images really spoke to me in some way… made me feel something.


Image credits*, clockwise from top left: Jasmine Dowling, Jasmine Dowling, @bakenekonails, For the Love of the Southarchitectureblog.tumblr.com, ila-shop.co, @aliciatnails

My struggle in doing this simple, spontaneous exercise was not in finding images that appealed to my aesthetic sensibilities, but rather stopping myself from finding more. And I think this is reflective of the process of creative “nutting out”, as I see it anyway. You can just keep going… and going… and going. And one creative thought or flash of inspiration can trigger another. And before you know it you’re creating something new (or several new things in a row inspired by what came before).

And so, I am by no means saying that I am going to now rush out and create black and white food, however I do believe that creative thinking and working on personal projects can light little fires of inspiration that keep the creative wheel turning… even if connections between “inspo” and future-tangible/created-thing are very loose or abstract. This is one of the reasons why I am so active in the kitchen, my journals and on Instagram when I am on maternity leave. I feel a need to create… something… everyday. And the more I create, the more I am inspired to create.

Yes, I believe that as long as we are creating for the love of creating, the inspiration doesn’t wane. Unfortunately, however, forced creative activity on social media or in the workplace can start to drain the creative life force out of people. The pressure to make/post something (anything!), or to keep up with trends** or be visible and praised (when all you actually want to do is “your own thing”) can be true creativity killers. It can all start to seem awfully strategic and bulls****y after a while, and can hit sensitive, creative souls rather hard. I am surely not the only one determined to keep my creative fires burning and not let my true passions be diminished by chasing kudos or popularity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with moving up the proverbial career ladder or organic growth on social media. And, yes, progress can be motivating. But in itself, it is not inspiring. When it comes to Instagram, if the reliance on “motivation to create” springs from the belief that engagement is paramount, then anyone who uses the platform in this way is now in trouble automatically (unless they are prepared to pay for engagement***).

So, I continue to create, sometimes with purpose (such as paying my bills) and sometimes just because. Recently I have received so many comments and private messages on the subject of waning inspiration. And, as someone who would be out of a job if I wasn’t able to access my inspiration quickly, I realised I do have some techniques that foster grassroots freedom of expressive thought and are not about cheating algorithms, or beating “the system” (strategic game-playing is actually detrimental to creativity, in my opinion). I will continue to share some of the other creativity-nurturing things I like to do if anyone is interested. I haven’t thought about sharing them until recently, not because they’re any big secret, but rather because I do them unquestioningly and have for years (like mood boards).

I might post more of these mood boards if I/you/we mutually fancy. If you want to see some of my old visualisation ones, I post one every New Year’s Eve (here’s onehere’s another).

And if you want to snap yourself into creative mode in just 30 minutes or less, you are welcome to try this little challenge too. Let me know if you do! I’d love to see what you make and hear if it impacts you in any way.

❤ MM xx


*I do try to credit images used here. Sometimes it involves detective work if images are found on Tumblr or Pinterest, but I try.

**And this is why you haven’t seen avocado roses in the food I make. Not because I don’t think they are pretty or require serious avo skills to make, à la my friend Stephanie @jarsandbowls. And if you make them, I am not knocking you. There’s every chance you do it for the love of it and not because they’re en vogue. But I personally don’t feel inspired to do it – or anything – just because “it’s a thing”. The rebel in me predicts that, perhaps in a year or two when they’re no longer fashionable, I’ll try my hand at one and make my avocado-loving little girl very happy in the process!

***Which I am not.

11 thoughts on “30-MINUTE MOOD BOARD CREATIVE CHALLENGE (black & white)

  1. This is lovely, I would love to try this sometime! I feel the same way about avocado roses (and also smoothie bowls and chia puddings…. I do you recall you also waiting a long time to make your first smoothie bowl!). xoxo

    • Right! It took aaaages! And it was only because I had made another recipe that I thought would go well in one… I couldn’t just do it for the sake of it 😛 . When it comes to chia puddings, I make them way more than I show them (and have been for years, long before IQS came into my life 😀 haha). I just don’t want to make a career of a certain type of food and I know that some people start to feel boxed in if their popularity is dependant on smoothies or whatever. And thanks so much, lovely! xx

      • And, as you pointed out in your post – it’s not that the avo roses/smoothie bowls/chia puddings are problematic in and of themselves, it’s when people feel they *should* make them to be part of a certain social media trend. Personally I’m just not that into smoothie bowls! So cold and wet and sloppy… 😉

      • Right. I actually love all of those thing (well smoothies I usually drink and avocado I usually just smash up!), but I don’t want to feel obligated to make something that isn’t what I actually feel like making or eating 😀

      • Yes I’m a smoothie drinker too (it’s the ‘eating’ it with a spoon that I can’t get my head around!). Sorry to bother you again – but I just wondered, is there a particular tool or website you use to create your mood boards? (My rather limited IT skills are showing!)

      • Hi Erin! I use InDesign, but for the purpose of this exercise it’s enough to literally cut and paste from magazines (as we did in pre-Pinterest days) or even use Microsoft Word or whatever desktop publishing software you might have access to. Or you could do it all virtually and create a Pinterest board (public or private) to which you can add all the images that fit a chosen theme (such as ‘black & white’) and “speak to you” within a period of 30 minutes. xx

  2. Wonderful challenge! I love that aesthetics can play such an amazing role in vitality in mental health. Making photo collages and videos are a great way for me to exercise it!

  3. The closest I have come to a mood board is probably my Pinterest account. Your mood boards are lovely. My problem is not so much the creativity/inspiration part but making time to action my creative thoughts. Setting aside 30 minutes seems like a very good plan.

  4. What a lovely article. I think I will have to try this. Not necessarily because of the creative aspect of it but more from the thought that this might help me focus my energy and concentrate on one thing. Give my busy brain a rest. 😉 Thank you for sharing, Marisa

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