“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
– Mark Twain
“To talk to each other is but a more animated and audible thinking.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Part 5 of the Pursuing Inspiration series.
So you’ve tried everything: you’ve spent so much time in the bookshelves that people think you work at the library, you’ve actually found the edge of the internet, you know the geography of the tri-county area better than Google Maps does, and you have ransacked your records several times over for lost moments of genius. Yet you still have the creative ambition of a doorknob. What now?
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” – Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)
Do you know anyone you find particularly inspiring? Someone you go to when you have a light bulb moment?
Conversation is invaluable when it comes to generating and developing ideas. It can follow a specific topic or be completely random. Bounce thoughts off each other, no matter how crazy or off-the-wall they seem.
Discussion cultivates ideas; debate refines them. Go over works-in-progress together. Sometimes what you need is a sharp editor to point out both the flaws and the diamonds of your work, and other times just hearing your ideas spoken out loud and from another perspective is enough.
Go adventuring together. Some of the best ideas can only come from the interminable duration and unpredictability of road trips, and having a travel buddy makes exploring new destinations that much more exciting.
So go grab a friend or two and go hunting for inspiration together! The memories will last a lifetime, even if the muse eludes you.
Who’s your sounding board? Friend, family, colleague?
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
For when you need encouragement. Note: Chocolate helps, too.
Song Recommendation: Every New Day by Five Iron Frenzy
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
“I never thought I’d be driving through the country just to drive….” – Relient K
Part 3 in the Pursuing Inspiration series.
So far I’ve covered exploring unfamiliar parts of familiar places (the library and the internet) in search of inspiration. Those are good, and you can certainly find new things that way, but sometimes you have to go a bit further beyond the bounds of the known into the unknown to find what you seek. Today’s topic: Pursuing inspiration outside your locale’s limits.
You don’t have to go very far away, just cross the line that defines your knowledge of local geography. Step out of your shire into the next town, city, or county. This can be an afternoon’s excursion or a day-long expedition, depending on where you go and what you find. Immerse yourself in local culture: Visit local landmarks and icons. Eat at one-of-a-kind coffee shops, lunch counters and diners. Talk to the natives. Be prepared to get lost and ask for directions.
So what should you bring on your journey?
Things to take:
There are also things that you shouldn’t bring.
Things to leave at home:
But the most important thing is not what you have with you, where you go, or what you do; it’s what you find – hopefully inspiration. So go out there, intentionally seek out inspiration in your own backyard, and as Mark Twain said, “Explore. Dream. Discover.”
“When in doubt, go to the library.”*
Part 1 of the Pursuing Inspiration series.
When I’m suffering from a lack of ideas or a serious case of writer’s block, the first place I go is the library. These storehouses of knowledge are filled with inspiration captured in print just waiting to be discovered. Wander the shelves for a bit: search out some unfamiliar range of the Dewy Decimal System; dig out that list of books you planned to read last summer but never got around to; revisit childhood favorites. Chances are, you’ll find something that will spark your imagination.
But don’t think that books are the only things available in libraries. Just like a movie, a book is enhanced by a soundtrack – most libraries have music collections, and there is a growing trend of MP3 downloads of music and audio books being made available online to those with a library card. So set the scene of your discovery with an album you’ve never heard before, and let the inspiration flood in.
And remember: nothing beats spreading stacks of books and notes over a quiet corner table, especially if that table is by a window. Some libraries have small conference rooms that you may be able to borrow for this purpose, and some have adjoining coffee shops; at the very least, most have desk space available. I am blessed to have a library not 45 minutes away which offers coffee, a hot lunch menu, sweet baked goods, and free wi-fi in a cafe setting on the main floor.
*From the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.
“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgement will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo was talking about artwork when he wrote this, but can’t it also apply to so many other things?
A few (ok, so maybe more than a few) favorite quotes on the art of debate:
“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” – Joseph Joubert
“The aim of a debate or argument is not victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert
“Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth.” – Joseph Joubert
“Don’t take the wrong side of the argument just because your opponent has taken the right side.” – Baltasar Gracian
“In heated argument we are apt to lose sight of the truth.” – Publilius Syrus
“There is no conversation so boring than the one where everybody agrees.” – Michel de Montaigne
“I have always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.” – Abigail Adams
“To talk to each other is but a more animated and audible thinking.” – Charlotte Bronte
“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.” – Thomas Paine
“It is unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are right and the person who is really wrong is proving you wrong, and proving himself, wrongly, right.” – Lemony Snicket
“The most important tactic in an argument next to being right is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.” – Stephen Jay Gould