This week my Seattle writer friend and newly fledged Dark Angels associate, Richard Pelletier, has picked up the quill with an inspirational post about where writers themselves find inspiration.
Are you feeling it? he writes. Inspiration is the soul of your writing life. There’s a place deep inside you—call it your life force, your spring of pure, clear water. To write your best, you need to travel there. Again and again.
It’s happening as we speak. Every township, city and village is being flooded by untold numbers of books, articles, blog posts, podcasts, newsletters and tweets on how to write. Six ways to better, quicker, easier. Seven ways to more of this, less of that. No matter what kind of writer you are, there are gems to be found. I’ve shined my little flashlight app into every corner imaginable in search of the keepers. I bet you have, too.
But here’s the thing. In all this writing about writing, I wish for more. I want more about the one thing that counts the most. Inspiration. My writer friend Jamie Jauncey thinks of this as a place. A spring of pure, clear water (here).
(Yes, I have heard about painter Chuck Close and his famous quote: “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” To which I say, okay fine. Why not both?)
Those of us who are commercial writers can always find out how to write better emails. Or a better case study. We can get help to structure a piece, frame it, or tighten it up. We can improve our calls to action. That is all hugely important.
Some writing projects are going to light you up like the Manhattan skyline. And then there are the others. But either way, we still have to bring the goods.
So to keep creating our best work, and imagining new ways to create, we have to be in touch with that place inside — that spring of pure, clear water.
But how? Where do we find the inspiration we need? As in so many things, it’s all around you.
Walk and listen
Recently on a long walk, I tuned into a podcast with the jazz great Herbie Hancock. He talked about his book, Possibilities and about chanting. He chants a Buddhist chant, Nam Myho Renge Kyo, up to three hours daily. That chant is Herbie’s spring of pure clear water.
What shocked me is what I learned later. Herbie has lectured on the Ethics of Jazz at Harvard. Turns out he is far more than a great composer and player. His command and erudition about his art were jaw-dropping inspiring.
Whenever I return to morning pages (Julia Cameron’s brilliant writing practice idea) I feel like I’m living a different sort of life. More connected — to the larger stream of things and to my own creativity. It opens things up.
I start doing my morning pages and poof! New clients, new projects, new ideas start pouring over the transom. It’s true and it comes directly from the Chuck Close notion: showing up to work. You got the Moleskin, use it!
Look at Brene Brown’s TED talk
Since roughly one gazillion people have seen this TED talk, it’s likely not new to you. Either way, new or not, watch it. Her delightful, self-deprecating ways and her brilliant deduction that shame and vulnerability are the birthplace of innovation and creativity…well, that is just hands down provocative and yes, inspiring.
Travel has almost no equal in the sphere of inspiration. Going to new places, wild and civilized, crowded and empty, quiet and beautiful is as edifying an experience as you can have. Go and listen. Eat and drink. Walk. Take pictures.
Write about all of it. You don’t always have to get on an airplane or a ship. Think of how many places around you that you’ve been unwilling to poke around in.
Listen to these voices talk about travel.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – Rumi
“And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and to fall in love once more.” – Pico Iyer
Create a project, invite some people in
We live in an age of collaboration and platforms. Find a group of people you like who are doing interesting things. Cook up a project you can do together. Find a platform you all can work with. And see if you can’t make something new, something inspiring to yourselves and others.
Last year I launched an Instagram project that married words and images. It was known as 12x12x62 Stories and Images. We had 12 photographers make 12 images and pair each image to 62 words of text. You can see the results here: http://12x12x62.tumblr.com/ The results have been nothing but inspiring.
There’s so much more to cover. Listen to music, dip into the cartoons of Hugh MacLeod, go to the theater, attend lectures, the list goes on.
Catch you later, I’m headed out for my walk.
Richard is not only a fine writer but a fine photographer. You can see the illustrated version of his post here.