Thursday, 30 September 2010

How to ignite waning inspiration

You may have noticed a quiet little tab at the top of this blog titled FAQ. Currently it contains only one question, granted, one I do answer quite frequently. It also contains a call for more questions and, I'm happy to report, I finally received one. So happy, that I decided to devote a whole blog post to the answer. Thanks Mary for the Q!

Here it is:

How do you ignite waning inspiration for your writing and musings?

I love this question because one thing I'm passionate about, in case you haven't noticed, is creativity. For me, creativity and spirituality and vibrant living are all so interconnected and, inspiration is something that makes us feel alive. But, while inspiration can be found in everything, it also can be cheekily elusive when you really need it.

So much has been written about this topic, but a lot is personal too. Here are my two cents gleaned from 30 years' on the creative prowl.

1. Know your season
- I say this about almost everything, but it holds true in the creative realm too. Wanting inspiration for life in general or for a specific project is important - it's amazing to be bursting at the seams - but we also need the dry/ fallow times to let our minds clear and allow little buds to take root. Sometimes, when I've been creatively stimulated for a prolonged period I get addicted, and the first boring day I have is unnerving. Where'd the stimulus go?! Then I remember, being uninspired is important too. It's the time for ideas to marinate in your sub-conscious so they can actually develop from a flirtatious sparkle into a more tangible manifestation.

So, my first piece of advice for igniting inspiration is to allow yourself to be uninspired and, if necessary, wait it out. It's a boomerang - it'll be back.

2. Nurture creativity
- That all said, it is possible, when the time is right (ie I've got a project due (!) or the dry season has stretched into a desert), to kick-start inspiration. When I was getting over one epic creativity drought, a book that worked a treat was The Artist's Way. It's a 12 week course about recovering your creativity and I can't recommend it highly enough. For a shorter and punchier read to similar effect, you can't go wrong with The War of Art.

Some good things to take away from The Artist's Way are the author's techniques of nurturing creativity through morning pages and artists dates.

Morning pages
are simply the discipline of writing every day (whatever time really) to skim the surface of your mind and capture on paper whatever is going on in your mind. The most important thing isn't that you produce amazing stuff, but that you just get it out. Editing comes later.

Artist Dates are set aside times once a week to do something that makes you feel alive. It doesn't have to be expensive, just something that makes you happy and stimulates you creatively. These things sound simple but are really helpful when you're feeling uninspired. I've taken my inner artist to obscure markets in London and hotel lobbies to write in Auckland. Find your simple pleasure and do it.

3. Read! - Again, very simple, but reading inspiring books always does it for me. Often, before I sit down to write I'll read an author I like and that usually gets me excited to write, often in response to what I've just read. Even if I read a book that's pretty crap, it inspires me nonetheless because the whole time I'm thinking, "I could do this".

Other bits and bobs...
  • On a very practical level, when I start a writing assignment I first do a brainstorm and let that fester for a few days. Then, I take all that info (and whatever else is required on the project) and draw out a big mind map. I'm a very visual person, so getting it all out there with circles and arrows and exclamations marks and numbers is key. Then, once I've made the connections in my head I'll write an outline and go from there. The mind map is the stepping from the abstract to a structured outcome.
  • I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, and she has some good thoughts on writing here. Also, her TED talk lecture on creativity is amazing.
  • Writing Down the Bones is also a great resource for writers. And I'm going to see the author Natalie Goldberg speak on Saturday! Can't wait.

Well, that's my best stab at this question for now. Do you have any tips for igniting inspiration on the wane?

{Photo from Octavi's etsy shop}


Dee said...

So good. Completely relate to your boomerang comments... x

Gina Barnard said...

Hi Alisha!

Great post. I especially like that you mention the fallow periods as being important, too.

I have been writing little bits almost every day for several years. Sometimes these turn into merely checking in, like a journal, but I write poetry, so sometimes poems emerge from these moments.

I like to walk a lot and I also meditate (although sporadically) and started back in on practicing yoga. For me, these calm my mind and help me focus in on the creativity rather than the noise that often interrupts in our fast-paced times.

Thanks for writing this post!


Rebekah said...

lovely words Alisha.
although I am not a writer I often go through periods with my design work that feel so stagnent and dull - I love your thoughts on making a little time each week to do something that you love and enjoy knowing that in doing so your soul will be nourished and your longing to create will be refreshed.
I love that we are all created in the image of God, not one of us possess all of his amazing gifts but each of us a piece and he being the ultimate creator I believe it is in all of us to find inspiration and respond somehow..sometimes using my hands to make something just for fun is simply so worshipful for me that it spins into so much more..does that make sense?
anyway thanks for your deep words, you have a gift! xo

Rachael Randal said...

Very helpful post, Alisha, thank you!

I can't believe that over a year after you first recommended it to me, I still haven't read The Artist's Way! Gonna get myself round to St Helier's right now and see if i can get myself a copy xx

alisha said...

Dee, glad you liked the boomerang bit - almost took that out. I love the way your blog is developing btw way - you're such a creative mama!

Gina, I also love walking and doing exercise to clear the mind and let creativity rise up. I'm starting pilates tomorrow morning and can't wait!

Rebekah, such lovely words, it definitely makes sense. Sometimes as creatives it's easy to think that making time to create is a bit indulgent, but really it makes us come alive and gives God glory. You know I love your creative life...

Rachael, I sat on The Artist's Way recommendation for ages too, and then when I finally did pick it up it was just the right time. Hopefully it will be that way for you too. Can't wait to hear what you think about it.

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