Inspiration is a beautiful word when you break it down. It means “to breathe in,” from the Latin, in-spir-a-tus’. Some trace the word to “the immediate influence of God or gods” under which the holy books were written. In – spire – to breathe in spirit.
And there are those who believe that writing—the art of writing—is a holy act. I happen to be one of those people. This is not to say that what we write is always holy… not by a long shot, witness some of the very books you and I have written, some of today’s best sellers, 50 shades of books that have been judged as profane. Natalie Goldberg’s “worst junk in America,” Anne Lamott’s “shitty first drafts,” my own shambled notebooks. But the act of writing, that is what’s holy.
Here’s why I say this. Writing is a creative act and being creative, having the ability to create is a gift. It isn’t something we can go out and buy, order up from QVC or Amazon, or get injected into our bloodstream. Each and every one of us is given the gift of creativity; it’s part of our DNA.
In her book, If You Want To Write, Brenda Ueland, tells us, “know that you have talent, are original and have something important to say.” She says, “Think of yourself as incandescent power, illuminated perhaps and forever talked to by God and his messengers.”
Where do we find inspiration and how do we keep it alive in our daily lives? This is what I spoke about at the May meeting of Romance Writers of America/San Diego (a lively and friendly group of writers as you’ll find anywhere).
Here is a brief version of just a few of the suggestions we discussed:
- Take a sensory inventory. Start the morning with a sensory inventory (the light on your bedroom ceiling, the taste of your toothpaste), pause at intervals throughout the day and notice what you notice—the sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes, colors; pay attention at your meals. Before you go to bed at night, in your notebook or the journal you keep beside your bed, write three sensory details you noticed during the day and your response to them.
- Read poetry, inspirational books, listen to spoken word CD. Let language enter your body—feel it, wear it, taste it, dance to it.
- Cross-fertilization with other arts. When we create, we empty ourselves. We need to refill the well. Taking in other arts can do this. Be present with art, public or museum or books of art or unexpected sightings throughout the day. Music, dance, performance, movies, theater. Fill, fill, fill. You’ll have more to give and your life will be richer.
- Artist’s Date. In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron insists that recovering creatives go on an artist’s date every week and I couldn’t agree more. Artist’s dates don’t have to be big deal-planned-tickets-in-advance-to-the-symphony. For me an Artist’s date can be listening to music by buskers in the park or taking in a community art walk, participating in open mic readings, browsing open studios. Sometimes I go to a fabric store for the colors and textures or to Michael’s to see what’s new for the season, or like yesterday, I simply a walk under the flowering jacarandas trees that line San Diego streets this time of year.
- Add beauty to your writing space. Flowers, candles, potpourri, lovely and meaningful objects that give you pleasure. Enter your space with a ritual: light a candle, offer up a prayer, or whisper an invitation to the Muse.
And this is just a start. Tell me your favorite way to keep inspiration alive in your everyday life. (Extra points for ripe peaches and a bowl of sweet peas.)
One last thing: In Jack Kerouac’s “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose — List of Essentials,” of which there were 30, this is his number 29: “You’re a Genius all the time.”
Remember that and keep writing.