How do we keep ourselves inspired to create? This is a question I'm always exploring. Because if I let myself get too busy with the "business" of living, then I slowly, but surely begin to drift away from my artful endeavors.
We might say we want to write every day, or we want to return to that drawing class we started months ago, or we want to re-design the family room, or that we want to learn to use the new camera; but then, somehow, someplace along the line, things just get busy, and our yearning to create is pushed to the bottom of the long list of priorities that grab our attention every day.
It's hard to stay inspired. In fact, it's a practice. And I've decided I have to build inspiration into my schedule, just the way I build exercise and food prep into my schedule. For me, staying inspired is just as important as those two widely touted necessities for living life fully, happily, and healthfully.
So here are some things I'm doing to keep the inspiration barometer high.
1. Museums are one of the best sources of inspiration for me. Last week, the Cornell Art Museum at Rollins College hosted Tobi Kahn and an incredible display of his sculptures and paintings. Talk about inspiring. He calls himself a conceptual artist who is interested in beauty. And boy does he deliver beauty. On Friday afternoon he gave a lecture about his process of letting a work emerge out of him. Fascinating, informative, inspiring at the very highest level. I left there wanting to be more mindful, more observant, more tuned in to the beauty all around me.
And Sunday, I spent the afternoon at the Maya Lin exhibit at the Orlando Museum of Art. To borrow a line from Emily Dickinson, I felt like the top of my head was going to come off. That's what art does, right? Your mind (and your heart) expand so much that you think you can't contain your own thoughts and feelings. You know you're in the presence of something new and provocative. If you haven't seen it yet, go see this exhibit called "The History of Water." You'll be inspired.
2. Place your mind into a state of "open focus." I spend so much time in front of a computer, a book, a calendar. And for most of us, our work requires a mental state that researchers call "tight focus," one in which we bring to bear all of the resources of the pre-frontal cortex. But after about 45-90 minutes of "tight focus" concentration, that part of the brain literally goes on strike, and we are best served if we turn away from the close work of thinking, planning, organizing, and re-direct our attention in a more expansive way.
It's easy to do, and you can literally get your head into a new place of "open focus" by simply stepping outside, looking up at the sky, and taking three deep rounds of inhaling and exhaling. Truly. Do this: tip the head upward, close your eyes, breathe deeply. In just a few moments you release the tension of the tight concentration you were experiencing, and you open and receive in a whole new way. Add a short walk with focused breathing to this strategy, and you really have a technique for tapping into new ways of thinking and experiencing. When you return to the project at hand, you'll find yourself refreshed and inspired.
In my e-document, “Ten Tips for Igniting Your Creative Momentum,” I talk about the work of Daniel Goleman and his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Learning to be aware of the various states of attention that we experience, Goleman says, is one way to cultivate our creativity and inspiration.
3. Take an Artist Day! Remember Julia Cameron's wildly successful writing manual, The Artist's Way? That book, first published in 1992, was an inspiration to so many aspiring artists and writers, and one of her best recommendations was to take an Artist's Day at least once a month. Set a period of time, a whole day if you can, to put yourself in a new place, explore, play, watch, soak in the air, the people, the surroundings of an unfamiliar space. Take a sketch pad or a notebook with you to capture insights and visions, yearnings and intentions. Such good advice. This is a book worth returning to if you haven't looked at it for a while. You'll be inspired!
4. Hang out with people doing what you want to be doing more of. Just do it. If you're wanting to write more, there's nothing more inspiring than listening to writers talk about books they are reading, or readings they've attended, or classes they've taken, or the latest techniques they're using for staying on the path.
In April, LifeArt Studio will host a conversation and Q&A with Susan Lilley, one of the creators of and contributors to the fabulous blog The Gloria Sirens. The story of how five women came together to create and produce this blog is fascinating—and inspiring. Join us for the conversation!
5. Finally, for me, one of the best ways to stay inspired is to take a class or a workshop, or in some way commit myself to making formal study in the arena I want to be inspired in. In January, I signed up for a year-long online course called Year of the Spark, taught by Winter Park artist Lynn Whipple and Carla Sonheim, a Seattle artist. Oh my heavens, talk about being pushed into my zone of discomfort. I am WAY into that zone. But I am having a blast learning drawing techniques, exploring the magical world of Sam Flaxx and all of the tools, utensils, and materials of real artists. It's truly inspiring!
At LifeArt Studio, we strive to offer Creative Momentum Gatherings and workshops that encourage us to spend time thinking about our creative lives, and what it really takes to stay inspired and motivated to practice not just artful living, but also an art form we may be interested in pursuing.
This weekend, for instance, we offer one such workshop, an experience carefully designed to inspire you and motivate you to live an artful life, and pursue the artful endeavor that brings you joy. (Find registration information here. Only one seat left!))
Writing coach Jamie Morris will take us into the world of Tarot, and show us how these cards can be used to provoke us in new, challenging, surprising, and inspiring ways. It's not a writing workshop, per se, though we’ll be doing some exploratory writing for sure. But like most of our workshops, this one is designed to help you examine the creative potential within you and consider the ways that potential might be brought forth into form or experience.
How AWESOME is that??
Living vibrantly, artfully, and creatively does not just happen. These qualities have to be tended to, and given the necessary conditions for flourishing. And as you know, we're all about flourishing around here.
But I know. . . it's not easy to give up six hours and make the financial investment in a workshop that revolves around something that doesn't really move you ahead in the commercial world. But what about the process of moving forward in the experiential world, in the world of artful living? Isn’t that worth our time, money, and effort too?
I think so, obviously, because I devote a significant part of my weekly calendar to giving myself experiences that will inspire me. I hope these five tips have encouraged you to honor your own need for inspiration. It's important. It's the way we remember what creative beings we really are.
Thanks for stopping by the studio today. I so hope to see you soon at one of our workshops or Creative Momentum Gatherings. Or come take an Artist's Day with us. I promise you hearty dose of inspiration!