You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club!

…said Jack London.
I’m back from my 3 month trip in search of inspiration (check the photography section for some impressions from California and NYC) and now it’s time to take action!
I just glanced at a few notes I had made prior to the journey, outlining the creative challenge I was hoping to tackle:

I have this fear, this nagging doubt – that everything’s been done already. Art, creative projects, business ideas. But when I see some of my friends’ or strangers’ creative output, I’m envious! I instantly get the urge to do something myself! So what is at the root of this lack of faith that my creative ideas / creations could be original or their quality “good enough”?

Maybe this trip will help: Before diving in without fully trusting my creativity, I’ll step back first, calm down, focus, gather strength, most of all: INSPIRATION and CONNECTION with myself and my relation to the world. If I fully felt that personal connection, I suppose it would be that which I’d express in my art or job pursuits. So hopefully I’ll come back with vigour and able to be more within doing – give my projects a purpose within themselves, for me personally. Then they will be original. Or the question of whether they can speak to others too will become secondary to me. (And besides, do they even need to be “original”? Doesn’t art keep repeating the same age-old human themes?)

Co-incidentally Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist that’s being featured all over the place right now addresses my questions exactly. And his answers are wonderfully reassuring:

These ideas apply to anyone who’s trying to inject some creativity into their life and their work. (That should describe all of us.) … Every artist gets asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” The honest artist answers, “I steal them.” … stop worrying about what’s “good” and what’s “bad” – there’s only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that’s not worth stealing… What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere… Nothing is completely original.

Kleon’s advice: “Don’t wait until you know who your are to get started.”

Right on. That’s exactly the attitude I feel taking root inside me now. I experienced inspiration and connection during my time away and now it’s a matter of continual PRACTICE. Just doing it! And remaining wary: not letting those self-defeating patterns of self-doubt and self-isolation and plain laziness creep back into my life.  I met people who are consciously trying to be creative and true to themselves in their thoughts and actions every day. People who open up and reach out to strangers – something that many people in my city seem to deny themselves, despite the apparently wide-spread longing for more connection. How can people have inspiring encounters and transform these into confident creativity if they don’t open up to the world, every day?

So here goes: Let’s remind ourselves to consciously reach out and reach within, to explore our full potential every single day! Let’s grab that club and hunt down inspiration!

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What I learned in gospel class

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently attended an inspiring introductory workshop to singing gospel songs. Apart from the joy of singing as such, I also took away a number of valuable reminders, aphorisms and new tips on how to foster and sustain a creative way of being, be it expressed through singing or any other form of creativity.

Following, I’ve tried to just summarize my “lessons learnt” succinctly. A list of inspirations so to speak. I will keep coming back to these little bits of wisdom and try applying them in new situations every day.

  1. If you can talk, you can sing. Sing anytime.
  2. Breath – it’s the most important thing.
  3. Be fully present, always.
  4. Make every song your own. Find your own unique voice.
  5. Make it urgent. Artistic expression flows from feeling you must tell this story that is important to you in a personal way.
  6. Imagine your artistic expression as a conversation with one person. Real conversations are about showing emotions, not perfection.
  7. To find your own interpretation of a subject (song/character etc.)
    • engage sense memories  to discover associations that are meaningful to you in a personal way.
    • be precise in finding the exact nuance of the emotion you want to express.
    • keep repeating the song until you get its exact meaning  for you. (Rephrase sentences to mean more to you.)
  8. Experiment with your voice, your creative expression without judgement. Rather focus on the fundamental human experience of expression, connection, comfort and the own particular harmony that is created each time people sing together.
  9. Be spontaneous. Just sing the way you want to sing.
  10. Cry if you need to cry. Wailing is our first song. Release the painful energy through movement, clapping and song.
  11. If you are unwell, ask yourself: When did I stop singing?