“Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Inspiration is necessary for a creative life. When we don’t feel inspired, it can be hard to be excited about each new day. For me, inspiration comes in many forms: being inspired to make music, to try a new activity, to test the limits of my physical strength, to write. Sometimes I find that inspiration externally and sometimes I find it internally. I might go to an open mic night and get inspired by the songwriters I see making beautiful music on stage, or I might climb a particularly hard route at the bouldering gym and become inspired to see what other challenges I can tackle. I am always on the lookout for inspiration and I can definitely sense a difference when I’m not feeling it. What follows are some of the ways I make sure I have plenty of inspiration in my life!
One thing I love about travel is that it opens you up to new people, new ideas, new communities, and gives you an excuse to try new things and to grow. There is something about being somewhere different than your home that forces you to branch out a bit more and push yourself outside your comfort zone. Even though my current city, Wellington, New Zealand, has a similar vibe to my hometown of Portland, Oregon, I have become integrated with a type of community here that I might never have explored back home. And wanting to get the most out of my short time in New Zealand has lead me to participate in more activities and festivals and really spend time with the people I love here while I can. Due to the amazing folks who have come into my life and my own introspection and self-exploration, I have found this last 5 months to be a very important period of discovery and inspiration in my life.
At this point, I would like to use the story of my time with Kelly and Jefe Greenheart as an illustration of how amazing people can come into your life, inspire you greatly, and open you up to new possibilities and things you didn’t even realize you wanted. I met Kelly and Jefe through another amazing mutual friend in Wellington who they used to live with in Austin, Texas. They were visiting before heading to Kiwiburn and Wanderlust, two awesome festivals which I also happened to be attending. After seeing the inspiring movies they were making and spending some time with this beautiful couple at Kiwiburn, I was totally smitten with their dedication to a life of love and creativity. (If you want to see what I’m talking about, just visit their website to get a taste! http://greenheartcreative.com/ )
I knew that I wanted to spend more time with these two and that I wanted to learn as much about filmmaking as I could from them, as it is something I’ve been interested in a lot lately and am considering doing more of in my life. I also knew that Kelly and Jefe were traveling around the north island for a few days in the gap between Kiwiburn and Wanderlust. I thought they were super cool and so, as scary as it was, I asked Jefe one day how they would feel if I joined them for those few days on their road trip. To my surprise and delight, Jefe told me that he and Kelly considered me a kindred spirit and would love to have me along!
Had I not been in that travel mode of pushing myself to spend time with new people and learn as much as I could from the situations I was in, I’m not sure I would have gathered up the courage to ask. I mean, it can be really intimidating to tell someone how much you admire them and want to spend more time with them, especially when you’ve just me them! But it totally paid off because I got to spend several fun-filled days driving around the north island, eating delicious Thai food, taking silly pictures, seeing how a drone works, having meaningful conversations, and soaking in as many hot pools as possible with two people who inspired me and shared so much love with me.
In addition, Kelly and Jefe were listening to a fantastic audio book called “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I have since read in its entirety and which has given me heaps of creative inspiration. It also turned me on to several other inspirational books that are currently rocking my world, such as “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown, a vulnerability and shame expert. (That may not sound like something you’d like to spend time learning about, but trust me, that book will change your life for the better!)
Seeing how Kelly and Jefe live their lives, watching them work to create a beautiful highlight reel for Wanderlust, and listening to “Big Magic” with them filled me up with so much creative momentum and I feel like I’ve been thriving off of that ever since I got back from those festivals. It has made me more willing to continue working on my blog and sharing my stories with others and has inspired me to start creating my own movie projects, even though I have very little knowledge or expertise in that area. Every person who comes into your life has something to teach you and I certainly learned a lot from those two. I feel very lucky to call them friends and am certain I have much more to learn from them in the future.
In the past couple of years, I’ve been on a big kick of reading self-improvement books and I must say, I find them quite inspiring. I used to have a very hard time finishing such books, but have realized something recently that has helped me a lot. I realized that I’ve carried around this idea in my head that, if I was reading something on self-improvement, I had to read it really slowly or else I wouldn’t absorb it all. While I could breeze through pretty much any piece of fictional literature in a number of days, I found myself overwhelmed by the number of self-improvement books I wanted to read, and yet forcing myself to set them down every few chapters to allow all the important lessons to “sink in”.
Now, I don’t know where this idea came from or why I decided to let it dictate my reading progress, but when I finally stopped to examine it I realized it was probably not true. While there is definitely something to be said for giving yourself time to process new information you are learning, I think I was overdoing it a bit and keeping myself from all sorts of awesome learning by putting constraints on how much I would read at once. The truth is, you’re never going to get absolutely everything out of a book the first time you read it, but hopefully a few key pieces will stick out and you can learn from the overall message.
Now that I’ve discovered this flaw in my logic, I’m finding that I can’t get enough of these inspirational pages. There are so many amazing books I want to read and if I actually give myself time to just sit down and read each one all the way through in a few weeks, I find I get so much more out of them than if I’m slowly trudging through one chapter at a time. And I feel so inspired by each book that as soon as I am finished I can’t wait to start the next one! If you are someone who loves reading but you feel like you never have time to sit down with a book, ask yourself this question: how often do you watch TV? I often want to cut more TV out of my life and am as guilty as anyone for zoning out when I’ve had a long day or wanting to watch a show while I eat my meals. I find that if I just substitute one hour of TV for one hour of reading a day, I feel so much more productive and can finish a book in no time!
My book list is constantly growing and I’m not sure I will ever get to a point where I don’t have at least ten other books waiting to read, but I find it much less daunting now that I know I actually have the power to get through them at a reasonable pace! And I like that there is just too much out there for me to possibly consume in one lifetime – it means the inspiration and the learning just keep coming! I have mentioned many of these before, but a few books I highly recommend if you are looking for some fun learning and personal growth are: Yes Please! by Amy Poehler, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari,The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.
Bringing it back home
It is easy to be open and adventurous and explorative when you’re in a new country and know that your time is limited, but it is also important to me to bring my traveling mentality back into my life at home. It’s much easier to take chances and explore new friendships when you know they may not come around again. It is easy to be inspired when each day is new and exciting and you are experiencing so much beauty and so many wonderful new people. But how do we make sure we continue to do that even when we have the illusion that our time is not limited? Because let’s be real, our time is always limited.
I think one of the ways we can do that is by surrounding ourselves with other people who are also open to traveling, exploring, and learning. You don’t have to be traveling to go on adventures – find people who are willing to go on fun day trips with you, or do fun photo shoots around the city, or go to some random event you wouldn’t normally go to. If you meet someone who is doing things you want to be doing, spend more time with them! Tell them how cool you think they are and then learn everything you can from them about what they are doing and how they got there.
Another great way to bring inspiration home is by putting yourself out there with new activities. You don’t have to be traveling to try something new! Look into what your city has to offer; perhaps there are weekly salsa dancing lessons, Shakespeare in the park, or even an interesting looking job fair. Take a class and learn something new; it could be anything from cooking to kayaking to learning a language. Maybe there’s even a cool festival you could check out! Even if art isn’t really your jam, you might feel inspired by going to your local art museum, or checking out a cool installation. Seeing other people being brave and creative is always a great way to inspire yourself to do the same. And attending these sorts of events might even connect you with new people or new activities that bring out a side of yourself you didn’t know was in there!
You could even start a group doing something that inspires you. If you are one of those people who loves reading inspirational books, create a book group with your friends and make a point of reading things that inspire you, that you can have awesome conversations about! If you love making music, have jam sessions with your friends or get people together to go to open mic nights. Whatever it is you’re interested in, I bet there are at least a few other people nearby who would be interested in doing it with you.
I guess my point is that inspiration isn’t just going to hit you if you’re sitting around all day doing nothing, waiting for it to magically appear. Inspiration comes when you surround yourself with amazing people, books, activities, places, nature, even foods! If you’re sitting at your pottery wheel, or your typewriter, or your piano, and nothing is coming to you, don’t just stare blankly at your art – go out and do something! If you don’t feel inspired by the life you are leading, change it!
So what things or people inspire you? What keeps you living a creative and fulfilling life, even when you’re not off traveling or doing exciting new things every day?