Saturday, January 7, 2012

inspiration vs. consolation

If you yearn to write...or  paint or sing or may find yourself swept away from time to time by the fickle current of conventional wisdom. You may find yourself paddling like hell against it because you know that there is nothing of value for you downstream where success is defined by fame, fortune, and power...none of which you have been able to achieve. Instead you row doggedly upstream where, you believe, truth and beauty reign. If you can just stay afloat.

Which is why we all need a little inspiration from time to time. And consolation when things get to be just too much.

If you are creatively "blocked", Julia Cameron offers this advice in "The Artist's Way":

  1. Stop telling yourself, "It's too late."
  2. Stop waiting until you make enough money to do something you'd really love.
  3. Stop telling yourself, "It's just my ego" whenever you yearn for a more creative life.
  4. Stop telling yourself that dreams don't matter, that they are only dreams and that you should be more sensible.
  5. Stop fearing that your family and friends would think you crazy.
  6. Stop telling yourself that creativity is a luxury and that you should be grateful for what you've got.
Now, when you are ready to begin your work, or to continue working on it, consider this from Stephen King in "On Writing":

"There have been times when for me the act of writing has been a little act of faith, a spit in the eye of despair...Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life."

If you're still paddling upstream, consider what Brenda Ueland has to say about why we write in "If You Want to Write":

We write, "Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold, and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know Truth or Beauty is to try to express it. And what is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty and express it, i.e., share it with others?"

With this in mind, why wouldn't you want to write?? And as if that weren't good enough, listen to what Thomas Merton says in "Echoing Silence":

"I am finding myself forced to admit that my lamentations about my writing job have been foolish. At the moment writing is the one thing that gives me access to real silence and solitude...When I pause at my work, I find that the mirror inside me is surprisingly clean and deep and serene and God shines there and is immediately found, without hunting, as if He had come close to me while I was writing and I had not observed His coming. And this I think should be the cause of great joy, and to me it is."

Not convinced? In "The Right to Write" Julia Cameron adds:

"I believe that what we want to write wants to be written. I believe that as I have an impulse to create, the something I want to create has an impulse to want to be born...Writing will fill your heart if you let it. It will fill your pages and help fill your life."

The same is true for painters, composers, and actors. For craftspeople and artisans. It is true for anyone with a creative spirit and the courage to free it.

For writers, Anne Lamott sums it up pretty well in "Bird by Bird":

"For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on Earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die...My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean. Aren't you? I ask."

Aren't you? I ask. Then you owe it to the rest of us to grace us with your words. Your truth. Your beauty. Are you inspired yet? No? Then let me finish with this:

"When you are inspired by some great purpose,
some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bonds.
Your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction,
and you find yourself in a
new, great, and wonderful world.
Dormant faculties and talents become alive,
and you discover yourself
to be a greater person by far
than you ever dreamed yourself to be."
Next week I'll be at the Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway for four days, soaking up inspiration for my next post.


  1. You always have some great suggestions for inspiration. Thanks.

  2. Much of these are a reflection of my own thinking about writing, or about any passion which one may have ... Own it. When we own it, own our writing, singing, painting, it has a distinct way of becoming who we are.

  3. Thanks, Susan.

    Joanne--I agree. And we do better work when we are true to ourselves.

  4. Some lovely bits of inspiration. Thanks for sharing.