Artistic and daily inspiration can be found in a variety of unique places, depending on how individuals refresh and recharge themselves.
Some people may prefer to listen to music, to a particular song or musical artist that holds special meaning. Others may find inspiration in the absence of noise, in silence — either through a manufactured quiet when they escape from everyone and everything around them, or by tuning out the environmental noise and turning down the distracting noises inside their own heads. As a writer with two young children and a house full of near-constant noises to distract me, I often need to tune out and shut down, to find my inspirational creativity.
Donald Richard “Don” DeLillo is a well-known American novelist, playwright and essayist whose works have covered diverse subjects such as nuclear war, the complexities of language, performance art, the advent of the digital age, and global terrorism. In 1985 his novel entitled White Noise was published. Described as a “brilliant satire of mass culture and the numbing effects of technology,” the white noise, or distractions, that he refers to includes radio transmissions, sirens, microwaves, TV murmurings, and more. DeLillo made this rather interesting point about life and human beings in his story:
[There is] No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die…
His statement, however, begs the question—is it because of this higher-level understanding that we must quiet down the noise inside our own heads in order to find creative moments and act upon them? The answer is not one that we will be able to answer in our time on this Earth. However, for a writer or an artist of any medium or work, quieting the noises within and finding inspiration are what provide the opening for something greater than what is currently there.
The development of noteworthy characters, a special setting, or a captivating theme—ultimately, the creation of something that will captivate an audience by challenging their intellect or tugging at their hearts–the ingenuity that so many of us seek, both as the developer of something special, and as the viewer who will appreciate it, is what separates the realm of mediocre from the exceptional, something powerful enough to cross over into achievement, respect, and success.
Yet, to note, inspiration and inspirational techniques are by no means merely for writer or artists, but for anyone who seeks innovation, ingenuity, or originality in their lives. Athletes, entrepreneurs, mothers, teachers, librarians… anyone who has a thirst for something more, for something special, can tap into their own inspirational techniques to produce and grow. Lynn Jennings, now retired American long-distance runner and one of the best runners of all time, found her inspiration within the devotion to her own sport:
I succeed on my own motivation, dedication, and commitment. My mindset is: if I’m not out there training, someone else is.
Beyond music, silence, or commitment, though, there are many ways in which someone can seek asylum from the modern world to conjure an image, a thought, or a whisper of true inspiration. These techniques will vary by person, depending on personality, character, and behavior.
Yet sometimes even simply skirting our personal norms is where inspiration can be discovered. One technique is to change up a pattern or a behavior that is our ‘usual.’ For a writer, opt to write something in long-hand as opposed to typing on a laptop. For a painter, allow your subject to be a landscape, if your normal proclivity is towards the human figure. And for anyone, this change in behavior could be introduced as new scenery by merely changing the place in which you usually stay or work. Or, as Norman Vincent Peale—American minister, author, and a progenitor of “positive thinking” once said— “Change your thoughts, and you can change the world.”
Another technique is to play a game for fun… perhaps one from our childhoods, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, or Trouble. Or, maybe open a dictionary, choose a word, and then write down all thoughts and associations that immediately come to mind. Sudoko, word searches, crosswords, and cryptograms are also great mind-teasers that move the mind towards more creative, out-of-the-box thinking.
Furthermore, it is the games themselves that inspire another equally potent technique for inspiration, and that is through laughter. Though researchers aren’t sure yet if it is actually the act of laughing that makes people feel better, or if it is the product of having a good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of friends and family that is key. Regardless, we stretch muscles throughout our face and body when we laugh, our pulse and blood pressure increase, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. It is a sort of mini-workout that makes us feel better, in the end.
Here’s DeLillo again, offering a rather facetious view on laughter and happiness that begs the question of how creatively advanced we are:
He thinks he’s happy but it’s just a nerve cell in his brain that’s getting too much stimulation or too little stimulation.
Lastly, an interesting and quite simple concept to find one’s inspiration is through the use of color. Some researchers claim that when people look at something that is green or blue, these two particular colors can greatly influence our creativity. Could it be that we associate the color of blue with the sky or ocean which represents openness and freedom, or that green conjures up thoughts of growth and vitality? Who truly know. There are so many wonderful ways to find creativity and originality.
Then, if all else fails, perhaps lie down and take a nap….zzzz… Many cultures beyond our borders have for centuries adhered to the benefits of mid-afternoon siestas. Our own scientists have conceded that these benefits include relieving stress, boosting productivity, lifting of spirits, and… yes, increasing creativity. The relaxation of sleep, a temporary escape from the world, revives the body and spirit in many ways. (I may curl up in a ball myself, after completing this blog.)
In the end, what is essential is that each of us has a source to tap into our own inventiveness and passions as we go about our lives. Lives that may include painting a masterpiece, writing a novel, starting a new company, or perhaps, something as ordinary yet equally as important as encouraging your eight-year old to finish his homework. So spend more time outdoors… engage in a sport, keep a journal, or try something new.
Know yourself and find outlets in your life that allow you the freedom to become inspired to do something great… or something to just help you get through another long and arduous day.
Now it’s your turn: What inspires you? In what shadows or crevices do you find the inspiration to create and grow?