Searching for Inspiration

Inspiration is one of the most exhilarating, yet fleeting conditions of the human experience. When inspiration hits, it is hot and passionate and invigorating. It can make you mad with thoughts and feelings and determination. Everything becomes sharp, well-formed, musical. You are focused, able, confident.

Your heart beats in your chest as you relish the high that only inspiration can give you. The excitement is nothing short of dangerous. A wild look comes into your eyes and you feel the intensity in every inch of your soul.

And then it is gone.

You spend time searching for it. Blaming the lack of it for your reluctance to do what it is you do- paint, play, write. Seeking to regenerate the spark.

Because, indeed, it is a spark.

And it can be done. It took twenty days of writing before I really wrote, before some came from my fingertips that was art, even it is was sloppy and childish and undeveloped. Twenty days of writing, of inviting the spark, of coaching inspiration back into existence.

For twenty days, I wrote for 30 minutes. It often felt like a chore. I committed to writing and my partner in crime would remind me to do it. Sometimes, I would blow it off, surf Facebook, house hunt or check my bank statements. Sometimes, I spent the time and wrote down feelings, emotions, dictated the scene around me. Nothing generated. Nothing organically creative.

For me, I felt like a failure. I wondered if I had allowed something so core to my identity that I dread sharing too much of it with others to fade away. I wondered if I let “the real world” rob me of my essence, the softness of my cold New England heart that bleeds for Frost, Dickinson, Lowell and many more. I feared that I had made a mistake and allowed the drive for financial stability and the naysayers of creative ventures to sway my unsteady commitment to writing. I feared that my bed was made.

And then, in a moment of brief clarity, it was there. I felt it as I broke lines to create choppy phrases in a rough poem. I felt it as I exploited repetition to emphasize my opinion of the piece. I felt it wind down as real life started to call me back and self-doubt set in.

To feel inspired is to feel fearless. I share this story often with students before they are about to take an exam: When I was preparing for a solo performance, by instructor told me to feel inspired because the chakra that houses fear also houses inspiration and if I felt inspired than I would not feel fear as I stood before the audience.

And it worked.

Our lives are filled with excuses to fall into fear. Fear of failure. Fear of mockery, of wasting time, money. Fear of not being good enough. Even, fear of success.

It is not easy to replace fear or reluctance or indifference and acceptance with inspiration and motivation and determination. It took twenty days of determination before I felt a glimmer of inspiration.

To be inspired is to be fearless.

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Setting Up For Success

Confession: Yesterday, I forgot to write.

Since June 1st, I set a challenge to write for thirty minutes every day. The purpose of this challenge was to address the time (or lack thereof) that I dedicated to an activity for me. Not for the boyfriend. Not for the child. Not for work. Not for school. I needed to dedicate time to the writer, an identity that I occasionally considered dishonest. How can I be a writer if I do not write regularly?

I wanted to set aside time to free-write, to gather fodder for bigger projects to come.  And, the exercise started off great. I wrote for thirty minutes. Sometimes, I would just put words on a page. Sometimes, I felt like I was actually getting somewhere. I wrote about my life, my feelings. I wrote about inspiration quotes and narrated the moment.

And then I started to shave that time. Maybe I would check on my bank balances or credit card statements while I set up my document. Maybe I would sneak-a-peek at my work email to see if I missed anything as I thought of something to write about. Sometimes, I would start the timer on the session and then get distracted with something else and never returned to the document.

Therefore, my dwindling commitment made it easy for me to forget to use the time I have been setting aside for writing. I got caught up with the nightly routine and was exhausted from a long week of work, school and house searching. Before I knew it, I was crawling into bed and the day was over.

When I did remember, I was a little annoyed. But I also realized that I have been cheating. I am not allowing myself the ability to fully engage with the process. I would start the timer when I’m tired. I would grumble about the additional commitment of my very limited time. I would search Pinterest, Facebook, and Zillow as I’m “thinking of ideas.” These are not effective writing sessions. I knew it then and I know it now. I have not been setting myself up to succeed.

The writer’s greatest enemy is herself. Success in writing may mean not giving into the hundred thousand different need demanding my attention at this moment. Maybe the needs wait. Maybe I find a better moment for writing.

Only twelve more days to go.

The Importance of Giving Space

I just completed Day 5 of my write everyday challenge. Here is a quick overview of my experience and early thoughts.

The Exercise

For 30 minutes (a hard 30 minutes, not a moment less, not a moment more) I free-wrote. For those who are unfamiliar with the practice, freewriting gives the writer space to just write. Sometimes, the exercise involves a topic or point of inspiration, but the most important element is to write for the entire duration of the time allocated to the activity.

At first, I intended to free-write every morning. And I did. For the first morning. After that, it fell to the late evening one night and I haven’t been able to get it done in the morning since.

I choose not to share this anyone I knew personally. Not my boyfriend, not my coworkers and definitely not on Facebook. Why? Because I didn’t know if I could do it. Lately (and what I mean is the last two year), I’ve really struggled with time management. If I couldn’t allocate time to write, would I want to write at all?

While I contemplated the exercise for the last month, I decided to commit after I was selected to facilitate a workshop at a writing conference. While I do write sporadically, I did not have any sense of commitment to it. The purpose of this exercise was to provide a sense of structure without being formulaic. Thirty minutes (and I cannot stress that it was a true 30 minute session) was enough time for me to just write.

The Lesson

Freewriting is a great exercise in and of itself. It is an excellent way to get your fingers moving over the keyboard or pen across paper.

For me, the lesson was the importance of giving myself space to write. I allowed myself one- 30 minute session every day. I allocated time in my busy schedule to write.

Now, this may seem simple. Obviously, I should have seen it from the beginning, but I have become a work-as-fast-as-you-can-because-it-was-due-yesterday kind of person. When I am busy, it is easy for me to fall into the I-just-want-to-move-on-to-the-next-thing mentality.

This exercise forced me to stop and write.

I started to think about other times where I have allowed myself space to do something. Sometimes, space means letting the toddler’s bedtime ritual unfold even if it’s nearly 9:30 p.m. Sometimes, it means giving us permission to be late to an event because getting there on time is just not going to happen. Sometimes, space means that during a rainy afternoon, I am not going to fret about homework, but that I will be present as I read books to the toddler and play with blocks.

In busy lives, it is important to give ourselves space to be present in our lives.

 

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Hello Again Writing World: Or The Plan to Reignite My Writing Flame

Notebook and pen

It has been a long time since I’ve written anything worth sharing (and I’m not sure if this really counts). But I’m here to share some news and a scheme that, I hope, will keep me honest. I’ve recently been selected to participate in a writing conference (which I am absolutely excited about). However, I want to bring something more to my discussions than last year and want to conduct a little experiment.

I will write. Every. Day.

So in addition to working full-time, taking courses towards my master’s degree, playing with my now 19 month old daughter, house-searching and generally trying to lose weight, I will write every day for 30 minutes.

My current scheme is to take time to write first thing in the morning. I am a morning person, so I think a 30-minute writing session could be manageable as I drink my coffee.

I’ll start June 1 and post weekly updates on my honest progress.

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