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Thursday, 9 July 2015

Going Dry

 

Going Dry

©Scott D. Wilson, P.Eng. 2015
 
Writer ’s block, losing your muse, loss of inspiration are just a few terms for what happens when innovative people hit the metaphorical wall in their running quest for creativity.  This process seems to happen to every artist, inventor or innovator.  I can tell you that it is a difficult state for those whose spirit is driven to bring forth new creations and ideas.  It is very much like the soul lost in the desert thirsting for water.
 
Perhaps a metaphor might help to explain.  I have found that the creative process is very much akin to the physical procreative process.  Ideas seem to be inseminated within our minds during the loving exercise of our passions.  Once planted a creative vision is wrestled with as it grows and takes on a life of its own within you.  Just like pregnancy, it is an uncomfortable time as the new dream kicks and challenges the old ideas.  Your mind’s horizons are stretched and grow as the notion wrestles with past thoughts and experiences.
 
And then one day the urgency of the idea becomes intense and the near frenzied birth process takes place as the concept demands attention and action in becoming something physical: a story, a poem, a song, a picture, an invention, a business plan, a recipe, a…  And just like a proud parent you cautiously take your creation out to show to others hoping that they too will see its beauty.
It should be evident that this process can stall at many of the stages along the way but the one that troubles most folks is the inspiration at the very beginning.  Novel and interesting ideas seem to dry up and blow away.  Everything seems old.  The creative individual is left struggling and wondering why their source of inspiration has dried up.  From my own experience this state occurs progressively and results from one thing:  living an uninspiring life. 
 
This may sound overly simplistic but believe me that my statement is quite vast in its implications.  Most do not realize that their ideas are born of their daily life experiences.  Thanks to our hippocampus we only consciously perceive a small percentage of what our senses bring into us on a daily basis.  If this were not the case then we would be inundated by all the tastes, smells, colours, sounds and sensations.   Nonetheless, as we live and experience our days with all their sensations, emotions and thinking we gain experience that is stored and generates our thoughts, ideas and dreams.  Most scientists presently believe that our dreams are a way of our minds processing all that we have perceived, consciously and unconsciously during our day. 
 
In essence, our minds digest the experiences that we put into them every day and turn them into understanding and ideas.  In other words, the mind eats life experience like the body eats food.  Our minds grow strong and our wits sharpen when we provide them with stimulating events and ideas.  Unfortunately, we often allow life to become too routine or mundane and we lose our appreciation for the miracle of our own particular existence.  The common yet mundane entertainment and distractions of life rob our minds of the experiences that they crave.  This often happens through the natural survival processes of our usual days.  I have a few suggestions to correct this matter.
 
My first proposal:  Meditation.  Now before you roll your eyes and tell me that meditation is not for you I need you to revisit the concept of meditation.  When most hear the term mediation they envision guru’s seated on mats with their eyes closed for hours in silent contemplation.   This stereotype is a rather myopic view of mediation.  Mediation has many forms both static and active.  A popular active form of meditation is the Chinese martial art and activity Tai Chi Chuan.  However, others find mediation in a quiet walk with one’s pet or jogging with classic music.  My point is that each one of us can find a form of mediation that works for us.  I encourage you to find yours, anything to free your mind from the day’s mundane thoughts.
 
My next recommendation:  Reconnection with God or the Universe.  Knowing who we are and our purpose plays a strong role in bringing inspiration to our lives.  Similar to mediation, some find prayer to be a conduit for connecting to their spiritual side.  This connection can however take many forms.  Many find understanding of their identity through study and their family, cultural roots or their past.   Our lives were meant to be lived but they were also meant to be reflected upon to be understood and given meaning.  The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates put it this way “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Whether practical or spiritual, many find that journaling or writing a diary helps them to connect with themselves.  Again, I urge the reader to find their own particular habitual connection.
 
Another suggestion:  Follow a passion or a hobby.  This may seem trite but it is a serious statement.  Many popular teachers today encourage us to find our passion, as if this is a singular thing.  However, many successful people pursue multiple interests and enjoy a variety of hobbies.  Our interests help us to relax and encourage us in our creativity.  Baking a cake or brewing beer may seem completely unrelated to writing or playing an instrument but many attest that following seemingly commonplace activities quiet minds and stir creative juices.  Often our hobbies can become forms of active meditation.  Likewise, following our various interests can also lead to better understanding of ourselves and our purpose.
 
Finally, I recommend:  Associate with other creative people.   There are several reasons why like-minded people form clubs and associations.  Certainly, one of the most significant reasons is to share information and ideas about their work and interests.  Creative people tend to brainstorm ideas with others who share their passions. If your well has run dry then it is a good idea to look around and fins some groups of people who are pursuing your craft.  The internet is filled with coaches, clubs, associations, mastermind groups and the like.  The point is, join one or more such groups and participate in their forums and real-life gatherings.  Write and chat with these people.  Help others to get started.  Whether giving or receiving help and advice you will learn and benefit.  Proverbs 27:17 of the Bible puts it well: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
 
Those four related suggestions form my recommended oasis for those thirsting for their muse or spark of creativity.  I am sure that other venues exist and I encourage you to try them all.  As in other areas of our life we need not feel like victims when our ideas become sparse.  We can be empowered to re-establish our own imaginations and rekindle the fires of inspiration in our lives.  It is not hard to lead an inspiring life but it does take effort and intention at times.  We have only ourselves and our own misgivings preventing us from regaining what we may feel that we have lost.  Let nothing stand between you and your muse!  I tend to agree with author and speaker Jacob Nordby when he stated:

“Writer's block is just another name for fear.”

On a parting note, if you want to hear an inspiring story from a modern artist who lost and found his muse I highly recommend Sting’s powerful TED Talk entitled “How I started writing songs again”:
https://www.ted.com/talks/sting_how_i_started_writing_songs_again?language=en