Visualizing data: ask a question first
There is no way to think up an original and extraordinary design—it can only come as a result of pursuing a given task. In the same way running down a list of words is different from making a narrative.— Artemy Lebedev, Designer’s block, February 16, 2010
This applies to visualization too. When you don't have a question to answer or a simple wonderment about something, you end up staring at a bunch of numbers with no clue what to do with them. Want to test this out? Go to data.gov and make something useful.