INSPIRATION

 

I’ve heard some say that they receive inspiration while in the shower or on a trail in the forest or beside a lake.  I’ve had a poem write itself when I’m stuck in traffic.  There are innumerable places to find inspiration.  Consider if there is a place or time of day when you typically receive inspiration.

INSPIRATION–Truly, it is everywhere, in any moment if we are RECEPTIVE!  Aren’t we blasted by inspiration of one sort or another daily.  When I look out my bedroom window, I see sky and natural beauty everywhere.  When I’m traveling, I view highways, vehicles, people, bridges, bays, high deserts.  In a cafe, I overhear a line from someone at the adjoining table that I have to write in my notebook. Or an aroma crosses my olfactory awareness and I’m transported back in time to when my mom used to make her famous spaghetti sauce.  Or, as often happens, the words of an old familiar song take me right back to my twenties.  With all the inspiration around us, we could easily go into overwhelm.  For the writer, there is a necessary sorting process to determine what “scents” we want to explore further.  The sorting of dross from gold. That’s where our particular inspiration comes in.  You’ve decided, haven’t you, what you want to write about, where your passions lie?

According to Mr. Webster himself, inspiration is “A divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify her or him to receive and communicate sacred revelation.”

NOW THAT IS A POWERFUL CALLING!

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It’s a good idea to be a witness to how your unique creative process works and how you respond to inspiration.

WRITING PROMPT:
Think of something you wrote recently.  Then back track…and list the details that lead you to explore this particular topic.

  • What was the topic?
  • Where were you when inspiration hit?
  • What were you doing?
  • Were you in conversation with someone?
  • Did you immediately know that this was a hot topic for you?
  • Did you write it down?
  • Tell someone about it?
  • Put it aside for another time?

This is a way to witness your own process when it comes to how you respond to the muse, to inspiration.

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Next, consider
“What does it take for you to leap from the point of inspiration to write something on the page?”

Invocation of the MUSE

 

Invocation
by Frank T. Rios

My muse burns
a holy candle
to the nite
as She lies quiet
in the other room
the space
between us
a mystery
like walking
on air
what I know
fits
in my closed hand
the rest
a vision
and my Muse
guiding me

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We’ve talked about inspiration.  We’ve mentioned “The Muse.”  We’ve looked at how we respond to inspiration (the muse).  When I don’t have to rush out the door in the morning, I return to my bed with a cup of hot yerba mate tea.  I write or draw in my journal.  I contemplate the day before me.  I look out the window & note the blueness of the sky, the shapes of trees, the structures, the sheer beauty.  Sometimes, I let my imagination roam…a good thing for an artist to do–give your imagination room to roam.

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WRITING PROMPT

I thought it would be interesting to imagine that my muse has a physical form.  I thought it would be insightful to interview my muse.  To ask her or him some questions.  I drafted a list of interview questions (see below).  I invite you to do the same–that is, interview your muse.  You can use my questions and if you have some questions of your own, include them. Give your muse the opportunity to write out the answers to your questions in a stream of consciousness way.  (Oh and remember that the muse is a bit unpredictable and playful.) Enjoy this process.

  • Who are you?  (Calliope, Saraswati, wiser self or?)
  • How do I invoke you? (Through a poem, a prayer, an invitation, getting quiet?)
  • What are some ways that you bring me inspiration?
  • What’s most important for me to be writing about?
  • What do you need or desire from me?

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You’ve created a list of things that you’d like to write about.  Good for you!  Now what?

Writing Prompt

From your list of inspiring topics, choose one topic that you feel passionate about.  For twenty minutes, write with abandon (no censoring or editing).  Allow your curiosity, passion, natural inclinations to guide your writing.  Set your timer for twenty minutes. On your mark, get set and WRITE!

Read what you wrote aloud and then let it be for now.

Enjoy your day.

peasantfinal

Living a Writer’s Life

You have an idea of something you want to write.  You feel inspired, even passionate.
You begin writing.  You are in the “zone.”  Your writing seems to flow and take on a life of its own.  The words pour out of you onto the page.  At times, it feels like the words are coming from somewhere outside of you.  That they aren’t even your words but are coming from a supra-conscious source.  Sort of spooky when you think about it.  How can you possibly even know some of the things you are writing about?

You have tapped into the greater subconscious.  The famed Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, termed this phenomena, supra-conscious or the greater unconscious mind or the universal mind.  This mind contains all the wisdom of the human race throughout time.

Your muse has given you the initial inspiration and you have fearlessly followed her lead.  Congratulations. Because you have been the willing scribe, showing up with pen and paper, this is your reward.  To arrive at this flow and ease with your writing takes COMMITMENT, showing up to your personally designed writing practice regularly.

Anyone who has a dedicated pursuit, creative or otherwise, has made a COMMITMENT. For some this is a dreaded word.  For others, it is a way of life and a path to deepening connection to oneself and to one’s writing practice.  Practice leads to improvement and growth in whatever area you seek to excel in.

WRITING PROMPT

Let’s take a brief look at the role that writing has played in  your life so far.  Give yourself a good amount of time with this writing prompt–at least thirty minutes to an hour.  In your journal, write your responses to the following questions:

  1.  Over the course of your life, what types of writing have you done?  This could include letter writing, email writing, journal writing, writing for newspapers or periodicals, poetry, essays, technical writing, fiction, non-fiction, anything.  Texting–does that count?
  2. Do you presently have a writing practice?  If so, do you write daily, weekly, less than weekly?
  3. Have you set aside a specific time of the day to write?  If so, what time of the day   and how long do you typically write?
  4. Do you have a writing goal?  Be specific and detailed in describing this goal.
  5. How do you feel when you hear the word commitment?
  6. Have you or are you prepared to make this commitment to your writing?
  7. Describe what this commitment to your writing would look like.  Give details.  You could begin with a description of your writing space.

Take time to consider each of these questions and any others that might arise during this process.  This is about you, for you and therefore  you get to speak the truth in your journal without consequence.

WRITING TIP

Giving yourself a compassionate and doable writing practice is based upon your other life commitments at this time.  If you have a life outside of writing, a “regular” job, others depending upon you, it isn’t practical to lock yourself away for any great length of time to write.  To be successful, it is important to design your writing practice within the context of your daily life.  A few things that are essential to establishing your writing practice are:

  • A designated writing space
  • A dedicated practice, whether it be daily, three times a week or more…you decide
  • A designated time of day to write
  • A designated length of time to write
  • Informing everyone you live with that this is your time to write and it has to be respected
  • Letting your circle of people outside your home know that you won’t be answering the telephone, checking emails or texting during this time
  • Note:  You have to respect this time to write if you expect others to respect it.

These are some of the steps necessary to begin to live a Writer’s Life.

Shhh…Get Quiet Now

As you open the space for your writing practice, it helps to settle into a quieter place and to leave your day behind.
When I facilitate writing circles, we typically begin with a meditation.  I offer the following meditation to you as a way of grounding, centering and affirming what you are here to do–WRITE.

If you are able to record this, that would be perfect.  If not, read it aloud slowly and allow yourself to receive the benefits.  Afterwards, sit quietly for a few minutes and notice what surfaces for you.

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Sit comfortably.
Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
Focus on your breath.
The gentle in-breath, the gentle out-breath.
Sense your breath as it enters.
Sense your breath as it exits.
Enter into the expansion of the breath.
Enter into the contraction of the breath.
Nothing forced, easy and natural breathing.
The breath is your guide on a quiet quest for your muse.
The muse is the instigator of your inspiration and creativity.
You’ve encountered her before.
Today, she leads you down a path under the widely branching oak trees.
She seems to be a tease, but she has something to share with you.
She dances forward and back, around you and with you.
She twirls you until you’ve lost your sense of direction.
She giggles and you feel safe enough to laugh with her.
You feel you can trust her.
You know that what she has to share with you will enrich your life
if you fearlessly follow her.
And you do.
Today, her name is Calliope (the muse of heroic and epic poetry, of storytelling and fine speech).
Today her name is Clio (the muse of history and writing, the giver of fame).
Today her name is Erato, the muse of Eros, desire and the poetry of love).*
Today, she offers to be available to you.
Today, she guides your writing.
Sit quietly, engaging your muse.

(PAUSE for a few minutes.)

Thank your muse as you enter into the expansion and contraction of the breath.
Witness your breath as it enters and exits.
The gentle in-breath, the gentle out-breath which gradually returns you to the present time and your space.
Open your eyes when you feel ready.
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WRITING PROMPT
Take ten minutes to write about where you figuratively went with this meditation.  That is, non-censored, first thought or train of thought writing.  Don’t stall.  If your writing wants to take a detour, trust it, follow it.

Quietly, reread what you wrote.  Then, read it aloud.  Notice how you feel about what you wrote.  OWN YOUR WORDS!

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*In reference to Angeles Arriens’s book, THE NINE MUSES–A MYTHOLOGICAL PATH TO CREATIVITY

Arrien says that “In Greek mythology, all nine Muses are divine forces in the form of women that guide us in the making and remaking of the human spirit and the world. Each one calls us to a path of creativity and a commitment to live an authentic life.”

WRITING TIP
Free-writing takes courage.  It’s like taking a plunge into a cold spring lake, following a dare or walking the high wire (not quite).  There are no rules to follow except to keep writing and trusting.  The critic–we all have one–gets to go on vacation during free-writes.

 

Where Do We Begin?

“BEHOLD A SACRED VOICE IS CALLING YOU.  ALL OVER THE SKY A SACRED VOICE IS CALLING YOU.”    a quote from Black Elk

Once you establish (for yourself) why you write–is it because you feel something or are provoked in some way; is it for catharsis, clarity, to communicate, for integration, revelation, pleasure or because you can, because you must?–from here you begin.  And, as Pablo Neruda spoke so eloquently in his poem…we write to “convey to others what we are.”

BUT HOW DO I BEGIN?  WHERE DO I BEGIN?  These are age-old questions for the new writer especially.  The simplest answer is to begin where you are with what you know. As we’ve seen in an earlier post, listing your curiosities and passions can be the lead-ins for writing something.

WRITING PROMPT
Sometimes, beginning is just about making a mark on a page…a symbol, favorite number, any letter, a scribble…MAKE A MARK!  NOW!

Phew, you got that out of the way; a beginning.

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Intrinsically, we know how to begin. We begin again and again with each new day.  That first cup of tea, coffee or juice in the morning marks the starting gate for entering the portal of a new day.  I love the optimism in waking to a new day.  I remember the old man in the beginning of the film, “The Milagros Beanfield Wars.”  He wakes up as a ray of sunshine warms his face, he gives a slight smile.  With some effort he sits up on the side of his bed.  He stands with greater effort and his breath quickens.  Stooped, he shuffles across the tiny space of his hovel, his breathing hard and fast.  The rooster in the yard crows.  He squints into the oval mirror and says–“Thank you, God, for letting me have another day.”  

Beginning signifies entering.  When you designate a time for writing, you enter non-ordinary or altered time.  It is a time apart.  This time apart can be referred to as sacred.
In this time and the physical space that you have created, there is the possibility for something new to emerge.  You are the scribe who shows up, pen-in-hand, open to this possible emergence.  However, if you don’t begin, don’t enter, there is only dreaming and dormancy.  Entering, beginning, taking the first step, we accept the invitation to write.

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WRITING PROMPT
On the next page of your journal, print your full name.  If you have a middle name, include that.  Write the date, time and place of your birth.  Write the name of the hospital where you were born (or was it a home birth–or in a taxi on the way to the hospital?). Write down the city, state and country of your birth.  What are the names of your parents?  Do you have siblings, older or  younger and how many?  Where are you in the birth order?  Write it all down.  Write one significant thing that you would like to note about your birth?

Ah, you’ve noted a few details about your beginnings.  Good for you!  Details are important to a writer.  Details make one story unique from another.

WRITING TIP
In order to feel that you can say whatever wants to be spoken, you have to feel a great degree of safety–especially in your private journal.  I recommend that you safeguard your writing.  Store your journal in a place which feels secure and away from prying eyes.  Freedom to write, at this stage, means that you are not inhibited in exploring your truths, thoughts and feelings.  You decide when and what you want to share and with whom when the time and conditions are right.

LaLaLaLaLa–Finding Your Voice

As a budding writer, how do you find your “true voice”?  Painters ask this same question when they cry in dismay “How do I find my style?”  The truth for writers (and any artist) is that a) it’s always there and b) practice.

When I’m in conversation with someone, if there is a degree of familiarity, I hear their “true voice” readily.  There is no need to hide when we feel comfortable with disclosing ourselves to someone.  We shield ourselves when we don’t feel familiar or safe.  We make “small talk”.

How do  you recognize your writer’s voice–it tells the truth.  Think of it more as “Finding Your Perspective” or your “Point of View.”   Take global warming as an example.  What is your perspective on this?  Is it a reality or something that some scheming political party or corporate interest has made up?  If you follow that thread, as if in conversation with someone, what would you say?  How would you say it?  What you say and your tone are reflections of your writer’s voice.

For instance, if I were of the belief that global warming is a hoax.  I might expound on how we are being duped into believing this for certain profit-making organizations or corporate interests?  If I feel passionate about this, then my ire could rise and that would come through in my writing also.  Though I’d look for “facts” to back up this perspective and insinuate them in my writing, it would still be my perspective and expressed in my own distinct way.  How convincing could you be if you wrote from a place that is opposite to what you believe?  How in touch with your true writer’s voice would you be?  I’m guessing a good, practiced fiction writer could do this. If that is your genre, then it’s another story altogether.  However, even a good fiction writer has an overall style that can be recognizable to her/his readers.

Writing Tip

Several years ago, I purchased a hand-held mini recorder.  For me, it was handier than a notebook when I was either driving or out hiking on a trail.  I could instantly record a passing thought, a whole poem or ideas for future writings.  When I replay the recording, I hear “my true voice”.  When you write, when you record your voice, compare to see if you write as  you speak.

A poem by Pablo Neruda

“All paths lead to the same goal
to convey to others what we are.
And we must pass through solitude
and difficulty, isolation and silence
in order to reach forth to
the enchanted place
where we can dance
our clumsy dance
sing our lonesome song
but in this dance or in this song
there are fulfilled the most ancient rite
of our conscience
in the awareness of being human
and of believing in a common destiny.”

Writing Prompt
Begin with the line “What I most want to convey to others is…” and write extemporaneously for a period of time that you decide.  Read aloud what you wrote.  If you have a recorder, record yourself reading this aloud.  Are you surprised by anything that you wrote?  How do you sound to yourself when you play back the recording (if you made one)?

 

A World in Peril

Writing Prompt

In my last blog, I invited you to make a list of things that you want to write about.  Then to whittle it down to the things that inspire you.  Finally, to put a letter “P” by the things that you feel passionate about.
For this writing prompt, choose something from your “P” list and write about it until you feel you’ve exhausted the subject (or yourself) for the moment.  Let this be a sort of free-write on something that you feel passionate about–no editing–save the editing for much later.
Though you may not have statistics or facts on the subject that you are writing about, it’s a good idea to let your emotional response to your topic be the motivator at first.  Later on, if you choose, if this is going to be something for publication, you can go back and begin to do research, edit, arrange and craft your piece.
Enjoy the journey.

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The image of the woman looking upwards is a piece I painted a few weeks ago.  I have been tossing around the idea “WHY MAKE ART IN A WORLD IN PERIL?”  It seems that other artists ask this same question.  We each have our various answers.  I put my answer in poetic form.

Why make art in a world in peril?
How do I justify this use of my time?
There lives in me something so feral
an inner urge that bursts into rhyme.
It’s certain death to quash this rumbling urge
poetry and paint relieve the seismic stress.
Witness your own ebb and flow and then the surge
for every voice has its resounding YES!
We each have our own inner witness
the one who applauds and sends you center stage.
Yes, that someone who won’t accept less–
it seems more imperative as I age.
Take your pen, your brush, your art-making tool
and in the name of your life, risk being the fool.

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Writing TIp & Prompt

As a writer or wannabee writer, it’s a good idea to take a few moments to answer these two questions in your journal:

  1. Why do you feel called to write?
  2.  Why now?

Take at least ten minutes to write your response to each question.  Allow the answers to arise from a deep within place.

Afterwards, reread your answers to see if this feels true.  If you feel the need to elaborate or get more clarity, write some more.  Breathe into your present truth about why  you feel called to write now.

Allow what you’ve written to follow you through the day.  Carry a little pocket-sized notebook and jot down anything that comes to mind on this topic (or anything else that wants to be noted).