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5 for Friday: Ways to Get Inspired

Categories: MFA Confidential Blog.


I am tired of waiting for inspiration to arrive. It’s a
finicky thing, inspiration, the harder you wish for it, the more resistant it
is to showing up. And so there’s this: the simple act of going out and finding
it. The idea of creating it. I spent
last weekend at the beach, visiting my parents, and it was the perfect time to institute
this goal. It was more than the perfect time, actually. It was the perfect place. There I was in the tiny shore
town where I’ve set my collection of short stories. And so with husband,
brother, and a friend in tow I set out on a scavenger hunt of sorts, camera looped
around my wrist. I took picture after picture and really tried to look, to see,
to witness the town and the details of the area. And what do you know? I woke
up the next morning practically feverish with a burning idea. Inspiration! I met
if half way. I began the search for it and it finally acquiesced, finally agreed
to be lured by me. 


Can’t I just live here and constantly be inspired?


Here are 5 ways to GET INSPIRED.

1.     
TAKE
PICTURES
. I love this one. It was my method and it worked. The
great thing: you don’t have to travel far. You can walk around your own
neighborhood and simply snap away. We see differently when we’re behind the lens.
And then there is the beauty of the finished product— the developed picture,
whether black & white or color. If you look closely enough, every picture
tells a story. Elliott Erwitt said “To me, photography is an art of
observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve
found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the
way you see them.” As writers we should be constantly observing. Switch it up
and get behind the camera, change up the way you see things.

 

2.     
TRAVEL.
Again, you don’t have to travel far. My husband and I drove 300 miles and bam!-
inspiration. Take a day drip. Explore the towns that surround you. If you’re
really bold and have the resources—do travel far. My trip to Auvillar, France
a few years ago was a turning point for me in terms of my writing. Traveling
stretches us; it places us outside of our comfort zone. Our senses wake up to
all these new smells, new sights, new sounds, new people.  My writer friend just took what she called a “literary
pilgrimage” to London to explore the places Virginia Woolf frequented. I just
received an email from her yesterday and she wrote: “I saw Virginia Woolf’s old
house and cried. It is love.”

 

3.     
HAVE A
WRITER DATE
. One thing that always inspires me are other artists, people who are passionate
and crazy about this writing thing. There is nothing better than meeting a good
writer friend for tea and croissants and letting the conversation take on a
life of its own. Often, when I’m down, when I’m in need of a good shot of enthusiasm,
it is a writer date that lifts me up. My friend Donna and I talk over lattes about
favorite books, the writing conferences on our wish lists (Italy, please), our
struggles, our dreams. We always leave feeling refreshed. Capable. Motivated.

 

4.     
SWITCH
UP YOUR ART
. At first I was going to write: visit a craft
store. Do this, too. Craft stores, art stores, are filled with things writers
love—little notebooks, multi-colored pens, beautiful baskets to organize our
work. But what these stores also have are paint, canvases, mosaic kits, and
much more. Sometimes it helps to take a break from writing and find another
interest to keep the creative juices flowing. Watercolor. Paint pottery. Design
jewelry. Do something new that will keep your fingers moving, your brain
engaged, and your heart inspired. You don’t have to be Picasso to paint a
beautiful canvas. It’s about having fun. As Julia Cameron says, “A little fun
can go a long way toward making your work feel more like play.”

 

5.     
ATTEND A READING. OR A PLAY. OR EVEN A
MOVIE
. Watch, listen, be dazzled. Attending readings is a wonderful way to
get enthused about our own writing. Being there, listening to an author read
their precious work, hearing them talk about how they got to where they are—all
these things get us excited about our own possibilities. Where can you find
readings? There are readings everywhere: at local libraries, local bookstores, and
many local colleges and universities. Check out the Barnes & Noble Event Locator to find an author reading near you. Or, visit your local college’s
website for upcoming events. The New School readings are open to the public for
only five dollars. If you’re in the New York area, check out New York magazine for their list of literary events. If readings aren’t
for you, then attend a play, see an indie film, or find a local restaurant/bar that has live music. It’s really about being in the presence of art as it’s created. I leave Broadway musicals with butterflies in stomach—the singing,
the dancing, the passion—it’s beautiful. It’s life. Witness it. Feel it.
Get inspired by it.

 

“Desire,
ask, believe, receive.”

-Stella,
Terrill Mann

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2 Responses to 5 for Friday: Ways to Get Inspired

  1. Kate says:

    So true, Kristan, about reading. I find it incredibly inspiring, too. I was reading a short story last night and I said to my husband, "I have electricity going through my veins! This story SO makes me want to write." And yes, the not so good ones inspire as well in a different way.

  2. Kristan says:

    I find #3 to be one of the most inspiring for me. That’s why I love my in-person writing group. We’re all at different levels and working in different genres, and it’s nice to get such a variety of perspectives.

    I also find reading a good book to be one of the most inspiring things for me. Sometimes I will read a book and just can’t tear myself away! And that’s the feeling I want to create as a writer, so it really motivates me. Then other times, I read a book that’s great, but not AS good as that other kind, and I’m able to enjoy the story while also looking at what the writer is doing to make it work. That’s inspiring because it helps me think about what I’m doing in my story, and how I can make things work better.

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