January – Inspiration

“Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly pass through us, constantly trying to get our attention.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

My friend and colleague Jason and I decided to do a 12-month blog challenge. We will both write a blog post on a theme each month and post it on the final day of the year. First up, inspiration.

Inspiration is a temptress.

We see inspiration plastered on the street, in viral videos, in marketing and on social media. We know that it’s supposed to make us feel warm and fuzzy. It’s supposed to be colorful and full of light. It’s supposed to be the thing makes you take that step and rise up to a better version of yourself.

But inspiration can gnaw at you. You can make you feel lazy, unworthy and ungrateful. It can drown you if you don’t listen.

There have been times when I can answer inspiration’s beck and call. While serving in Peace Corps, I had more free time on my hands and could be there any time inspiration demanded. I got in the habit of taking out my journal or hopping on to my computer anytime an idea was there and needed to exist. Now, though, I have many more commitments and general life in America tends to suck up more attention. This weekend was my one set of two days that I didn’t have a lot scheduled and I had to work really hard to keep those days clear so I could finally sit down with inspiration.

But, inspiration doesn’t adhere to your schedule. It doesn’t care that you have other things to do. It doesn’t care that you are tired or hungry or occupied with someone else. When it comes, it wants to be heard.

I know this to be true, and so sometimes I avoid things that could inspire me. I don’t want to feel inspiration’s hot breath on me because I am afraid I will fail or let it down. Instead, I stay at home with mundane and stale activities.

Just a couple of weeks ago some friends invited Ethan and I to the Green Mill poetry slam and that day I didn’t want to go. For one, Chicago’s brutal winter was flirting with its arrival and because I knew that I would feel inspired and not want to do anything about it. We did go and I was inspired. And it was only partially awful.

I am scared of inspiration because I am fearful that I do not have the talents to follow through and give these ideas the beauty they deserve. Why do they come to, I yell. But then I’ll seem them living with another person’s byline and I am ashamed.

To avoid inspiration, though, is to avoid beautiful things. It’s to literally opt out of the world’s greatest pieces of writing, music, art, photography, etc. It means not to love, hurt, laugh, dance, suffer. It’s not a life, it’s going through the motions.

The thing about inspiration is that it never asks to be good. It never asks that you make millions off of it or win accolades. It just asks that you create it, that you give it life. That doesn’t seem too hard.

Lately, when I feel inspiration’s voice quivering through my body, I try to acknowledge it. I write a note or send myself an email. I jot down words and phrases. I let it know that I am open to whatever more it wants to pour into me, but for now I have to work or be with another person. I will get to you, I say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I do not, but I love that I am gathering a collection of ideas around me. Some day, they will all mean something. As much as inspiration visits me, I have to believe it.

Before I go, though, I want to touch on a few things that have long-lasting inspiration power, things I go back to when I need clarity and beauty.

This article by Jonathan Harris.

This book by Cheryl Strayed.

This opening by Ira Glass.

All of these quotes.

This commercial.

This talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.

This column.

This song. And this one. And this one.

Other things that inspire me: the sun, rainy days, coffee shops, finish lines, people who are unapologetically themselves, book stores, big bodies of water, airports, small acts of kindness, my friends (like this one) and my family.

YOUR TURN: Leave a comment and let me know what inspires you?



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