Many of us are in new territory—a time of exile has begun. Swimming in the uncertain and strange, we wait and worry and wonder and shop. It’s even hard to know exactly what we need right now and how much. Perhaps, like me, you didn’t find what you were really looking for in the grocery store. No one shelved serenity in between the bags of coffee and tea, or comfort in the paper goods aisle. No guarantees that life will return to normal were stocked on the empty shelves where they used to keep bread. We may have to create what we really need right now—we may need to find serenity, comfort ourselves and each other, and stir up some hope.
In that spirit, a week ago I reached out to a handful of my creative, artist-friends with five questions—a survey of sorts about sources of inspiration and creative process. Individuals, participating in a wide variety of creative genres and ranging from 20-something to 80-something, responded with exquisite bits of wisdom and inspiration—more of it than I can share in one post, so stay tuned!
This feels like a good time to implement the “dessert first” strategy, so I’ll share some of the most hopeful parts now—answers to the questions below. I hope that you will find these thoughts as encouraging as I have during this chaotic, strange, and lonely time.
#1 Has anything inspired you lately?
# 2 If you could give the world a present…?
Joy, whose creative fields include music, design, and art, finds inspiration looking at houses—“I immediately start moving walls in my mind and imagining the full potential of the space”—and listening to music and sounds around her—“The hum of the vacuum cleaner once turned into a song.”
I would love to give the world the gift of safety and security, real and perceived.
Gareth Phillips (a.k.a. January Zero), a singer/songwriter, recording artist, and poet, shared this slow-motion video of a Chinese spouting bowl being played—“I like most about this video that, well beyond its eye-candy value, it reveals the relationship between sound/vibratory waves and visual patterns.”
I would like to give everyone an hour of perceiving the world from a completely different viewpoint. I’m not thinking of the perspective of a different subculture or religion or ethnicity or gender, although those would work well too. I’m actually imagining if everyone could see the world through the eyes of a bird or butterfly, which can see color in the ultraviolet spectrum, or from the angle of an animal (or person) who uses echolocation, like bats and dolphins. If we could smell fear or happiness, for example, as bees and dogs are said to be able to do, how might our experience of aggression and kindness shift?
JW Kennedy, who creates cartoons and music, shared this inspiration: “Red Letter Media does a YouTube series called “Best of the Worst” where they watch really bad movies and critique (but also enjoy) them”…reminding him that “a lot of earnest joy can result when someone has the nerve to put their creative project out there, even if it technically “isn’t any good.” It’s a great inspiration to GO FOR IT and be less critical of my own work.”
I’d love to make a video game based on ideas I’ve had for more than a decade .. and let everybody play it for free.
A music teacher wrote that she was inspired “when a student plays something really well and I see their little smile to themselves that they got it. That inspires me. C played a whole song by ear on mandolin by himself and looked up at me and smiled.”
I would give the whole world a northern lights display or shut off cell service for 24 hours so people will look around.
Anne, a writer, musician, photographer, coach, and editor, lately has been reading numerous mystery novels—“the comparisons and contrasts are super inspiring.” She has also gotten “intuitive hits for details of a writing project I’m finishing, and I’m so grateful.”
I’d organize young girls to learn to write about what’s on their minds. If they learn to trust their own thoughts and ideas before they hit puberty, I feel there is hope for them to become independent women who make up their own minds.
A painter, teacher, musician recently watched the end of the movie Lucas, she said—“If this doesn’t move you, you need malox: The locusts won’t be coming back for 17 years, I wonder where we’ll be then.”
If I could give the world a present today, it would be a work of art on the magnitude of Norman Rockwell…..when you look at it, it will inspire peace within.
Gene Beverly, a writer, woodworker, and general creative, was inspired by this quote from Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island: “No matter how ruined man and his world may seem to be, and no matter how terrible man’s despair may become, as long as he continues to be a man his very humanity continues to tell him that life has a meaning.”
Tolerance and love. I believe we are all connected with one another and whatever we do or say will in some way affect the rest of creation, be it ever so small.
Carolyn O’Neal, a fiction/nonfiction writer and beekeeper, was inspired by Elizabeth Warren at the debates—“Brilliant, caring, and articulate, she captured everything I want to follow in a leader. Plus she loves dogs.”
I’d like to restore the oceans to their pre-industrial age health. Before whaling, before drilling, before plastics. I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock on anything else. Not on food or transportation or plumbing, and certainly not on health care. Just save the oceans.
Jeannie Beverly, whose creative fields include painting, photography, calligraphy, and writing, was inspired by the most recent film version of Little Women—“seeing the movie made me realize I have always identified with “Jo,” who is the writer. For the first time, I think that has always made me think I might write.”
The will and the dedication to save our planet. A greater consciousness of the beauty and variety around us all the time and how terrible it is to destroy it.
Writer, Darrell Laurant, is inspired by the organization “Better Angels” that teaches people “to listen to and communicate with others with whom they disagree. This change in attitude is badly needed, and the existence of a group like this inspired me.”
The ability to see every other person on the planet as an individual, and communicate with him/her on that level without pre-conceptions or stereotypes.
David, a mixed media artist, writer, and idea generator, has been inspired by the return of the sun after rain, a recent excursion to natural settings on the outskirts of VCU in Richmond, and reading Howl’s Moving Castle—“I recommend it for those looking to return to what it felt like having childlike fantasies.”
Does it have to physical? If so, I’d say food. A different meal for each persons needs. I believe food is a powerful tool for just about every need. If I can get a bit more magical… I’d like to send out an aura of calm energy and let the whole world just breathe and be ok together for a little while.
Bonnie, whose creative genres include gardening, landscaping, music, and conversation, was inspired by a Kombucha workshop. She found it “fascinating and yucky at the same time! Who would’ve thought that this would’ve been a delicious drink?”
Unplug, go outside, enjoy the day and each other.
Steve, a brilliant, subtle thinker, who “composes (prose) for an audience of one,” has been intrigued by the activity of squirrels and crows he has observed on his bike commute to work—“All the squirrels look alike to me, but I don’t understand their furtive movements, I don’t know what they do when it snows, I don’t know where they live since I see so few nests in the trees. I don’t even remember what their nests are called.
And crows are more interesting than that.
Poverty relief is always a reasonable answer. Otherwise, an antidote.
If you’d like to participate, share your answers in the comments below.
Noelle Beverly writes poetry and prose, promotes local writers in the surrounding community, and is a member of the BACCA Literary group.