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Cover image for How to get inspired (about making things!)

How to get inspired (about making things!)

charlyn profile image Charlyn Gonda ・5 min read

Hello! I've been having fun making things for 12 Months of Makes (as evidenced by the state of my desk pictured above haha), and I figured this post will be dual purpose: give an update about what I've been up to, and answer a question a few friends have expressed.

I've been getting this sentiment from friends quite a bit: "I really want to make something, but I have no idea what to make or where to start finding ideas." Friends, this is a common problem, and you are not alone. Some people try to solve this problem by looking at stuff to buy or buying a bunch of things before they have an idea of what to make. That's one way to go, but I think that if you have a project in mind first before buying a bunch of random stuff, you'll have a better chance of getting motivated to finish. Great news: there are ways to get your creative juices flowing. Here are 5 ways to get through creator's block and get inspired.

1. Look at tutorials

birthday mailbox

This is a great way to get inspired. There are people whose full time job is to inspire you to make things. Let their magic happen. Sometimes you'll find that there's a guide for exactly what you've been wanting to do. And then sometimes, you'll see a project and then think of a twist that'll make it uniquely you. Check out Adafruit's tutorials or anything in Make: magazine. This method is how I made my April make pictured above: a Birthday Mailbox Printer - it was a livestreamed printer that printed out happy birthday tweets, and messages on a thread in my FB page. The messages were heartwarming and people had fun seeing their digital messages become physical paper notes!

2. Bring to life things from your favorite stories

You ever watch a movie, read a book, or play a game and think "I would absolutely live in that world"? The VR/XR revolution is coming, but while we're waiting, you can make replicas of your favorite props today and feel a bit more immersed. How about making BOTW Link's guardian sword++? Or make Hermione's wand that will properly say "wingardium levi-ohh-sah" every time you wave it? Let your love of the story drive your creativity.

3. Make something for your other hobbies

I happen to live in silicon valley, where table tennis is the office sport of choice. I am quite terrible at it. But, I've made things related to it, like this nifty trophy I made a while ago and an online internal office tool to keep track of office team scores. Think about other things you like to do, and what you can make to spice it up. For example, if you like to live stream, here's an interactive cannon you can use to engage your audience in a new way.

4. Create solutions for life’s struggles (big or small)

Instead of buying something to help you get off your strugglebus, why not make one and learn something along the way? Have a pet, and want to be able to check in on them? You can buy a product for that, OR you can choose to make it instead! Here's an Octocam kit from Pimoroni that gets you everything you need. As a bonus, making something yourself usually means you can find a way to fit it to your particular needs/wants. I'd love to see someone hack this camera to throw around a ball or frisbee to play with their pet while they are away.

shop traffic analyzer
It doesn't even have to be your struggles -- for my March make, I made a Shop Traffic Analyzer out of a Raspberry Pi for my friend's shop so that he could track foot traffic through his store over time and plan staffing accordingly.

art wall installation
In the spirit of making not buying, I wanted art on a wall in my new apartment, but needed it to be special and meaningful and also function as a bright light for the dining room. So, for my June make I created this wall art installation to mount instax photos and postcards I collect and receive from around the world. Meets all my criteria, got to use a Dremel for the first time and learned about forstner drill bits. Plus, it's controlled by Google Home. Super satisfying.

5. Make it for other people

platypus team trophy
And last, but definitely not least, I find that the most motivating projects are ones that inject delight into other people's lives. My February make was a Pusheen valentine, and pictured above is my May make, a 3D printed platypus trophy mounted on a hand stained wooden base, made to recognize the hard work of my teammates. These kinds of projects are satisfying because I know I made people I care about happy, plus I improved my skillset in the process.

So there you have it, 5 ways to get inspired to make your own projects. Reading back through this list, I think most or all of it applies to software projects as well πŸ˜„. My last tip is this:

Don't aim for perfection, done is better than perfect.

There will always be a more polished way of making something, and there will always be some better solution out there. Don't let that stop you from rolling up your sleeves and making something. You'll learn new things and build up your skills, and that's incredibly valuable. The experience of making doesn't always have to be about the end product. Get yourself some basic tools, pick one idea that you're excited about, and get to building. If you're looking for a group to share ideas with or make things with, join our FB group Day Coders // Night Makers -- we're excited to help and to be excited with you! :D

And of course, don't forget to share your makes here on Dev.to! This community is incredibly supportive, I'm so impressed by the excellent Dev.to team, and I've really been blown away by how inspirational you all are. Keep being awesome, and keep making things!

Is there a project above that you'd like to know more about? Leave a note in the comments below, and I'd be happy to make a separate post about it! PS: I'll be at Github Universe talking about making things, I hope to see you there!

Posted on Aug 27 '18 by:

charlyn profile

Charlyn Gonda

@charlyn

Charlyn Gonda is a coder by day, maker by night. She is part of a group called Day Coders // Night Makers, and is currently in the middle of her year long project 12 Months of Makes.

Discussion

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Daughter's been a big inspiration, I'm kind of using her as an excuse to resurrect a few hobbies like electronics. On the weekend we were IKEA hacking to make an extra play house for her hamster. Tonight we'll add straw, plants, toys and tubes etc. to make it less austere!

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OMG that's amazing! What a great reason to resurrect a hobby :D I hope you'll share a photo of the new hamster tenant + young maker :D

 

Thanks! At the moment it needs a lot more coziness and some soft floors, but that's coming next. Hamster climbs the ladders in all the wrong ways, so the floors need plenty of padding!

So good!! Looks like such a fun project πŸŽ‰ thanks for sharing!

 
 

πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ thanks Ben!

 

Great post! Options 3 and 4 are where I always seem to end up deriving ideas. I'm currently working a "Smart" fan to accompany my indoor bicycle training setup. It's solving a problem (having to get off my bike constantly to turn the high-volume fan up and down as I heat up and cool off) but also adding to the experience of the indoor setup

Thanks for sharing!

 
 
  1. Get broken
  2. Be poor
  3. Realize life is tough