Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Environment For Inspiration

When you're a creative person, sometimes it can feel like you're at the mercy of inspiration, that elusive river that comes and goes, sometimes raging strong inside of you and shining light on your work, other times trickling away and leaving darkness in its place.

I have felt the ebb and flow of inspiration and it's a mystery to me. One thing I do know is that as an artist, you have to work even when you don't feel that light embrace, that force pushing you along and guiding you. I learned this during my years studying piano--if I'd practiced only when I felt that creative spark and energy, I don't think my recitals would have gone very well.

Our issue of Notre Dame Magazine arrived in the mail yesterday and the cover of the magazine says, "What Inspires Us." I eagerly flipped open to an article entitled, "My Desk Is An Altar." It's a beautiful piece about writing and Christianity, but I was particularly struck by what Heather King wrote about inspiration.

On an ideal day I work for several hours...Every late afternoon or early evening I take an hour-long walk, during which I observe the tops of trees, the shapes of leaves, people's faces. I play the piano for 15 or 20 minutes. I try to say Evening Prayer and do a short examination of conscience. I listen to the birds again.

Within that framework, inspiration flows: perpetually, abundantly, in ever astonishing and ever new ways. Inspiration flows and then I do the packhorse work of writing, shaping, revising.

She treats inspiration as something to be continuously cultivated. She does things each day that stir her and awaken her, and also things that make her calm and contemplative and point her toward Christ. She creates for herself an environment for inspiration, and I love that.

I still do believe that inspiration isn't a given, no matter how many beautiful or thoughtful things we fill our days with. It does come and go no matter how hard we try to capture it. But I'm learning more and more, both through experience and through stories like this one, that we can and must try. Like Heather, taking walks outside breeds creativeness in me. So does making things with my own two hands. Often, cooking makes me feel alive and inspired.

The next time I have a dry spell, I'm going to remember that I must try to find inspiration, must look for it and not give in to the flatness. I'm going to remember Heather's words: So ask, seek, knock. Look out the window. The scales will fall from our eyes...


  1. Loved this. Thanks for sharing. We recently moved and almost every evening after dinner we now take a walk together. This is probably my favorite time of day. We couldn't take walks at our previous house so I'm really cherishing this. It can be quiet and reflective. It can be silly and fun throwing maple leaf helicopters in the air for our two year old or watching my husband poke sticks in the ant hill. It is definitely refreshing and inspirational. I like the idea of cultivating daily rituals that are good for our bodies and souls. It's almost like you can't help but see the world through a creative lens!

  2. This is a great post. I'm always falling flat of inspiration. Sometimes. I feel like I'm on such a great rush of adrenaline, inspiration is exploding within me and other times, I'm at a complete loss for creativity. But Heather is right and so are you: we must not give up once we feel like we aren't inspired. We have to keep on looking and keep on working. Thanks for the beautiful reminder. I'm going to seek inspiration at all times of the day! :)

  3. Aren't evening walks the best? I imagine they're even better with your little one in tow! I too love these daily rituals that Heather described. Such a meditative way to be.

  4. I'm glad these thoughts meant something to you! Go for it! I think we all fall flat and have to learn to seek inspiration :)

  5. I love how your faith transcends boundaries :)


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