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art & inspiration

“Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived, is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar; it’s where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it their own.”

– Rebecca Solnit,  A Field Guide to Getting Lost

I admire really creative people. Christoph Niemann’s book, Abstract City came in the mail the other day and brightened my whole week. And  Amy Krouse Rosenthal, you had me at hello the yellow umbrella. Somehow she makes book promotion look fun. I love The Jealous Curator blog for her byline: “A collection of art that inspires and depresses me. I know it’s good when I’m thinking DAMN I WISH I’D THOUGHT OF THAT.” She isn’t afraid to use the word jealous over and over. And she’s introduced me to artists like Kate Pugsly. Pugsly reminds me a little of another artist I love, Maira Kalman. I wish I could capture the world the way she does. I envy the energy that artists and creative thinkers seem to have. My only muse these days is strong coffee.

I’m feeling a little short on creativity this month. Maybe it has to do with going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. Now that I think of it, January is usually when I start compulsively painting color over white walls or jabbing at the dimmer switches, convinced the light bulbs aren’t shining at full strength. This week I’ve been trying to think up ways to spark inspiration. So far, searching terms like sunshine, Matisse, lemons, and Italy on Pinterest hasn’t really worked. It did lead me to Femke , though, a blogger in Amsterdam with an aesthetic I love. This form of procrastination, I mean, research, is problematic because basking in someone else’s brilliant productivity is generally followed by envy. I’m jealous of anyone making the time to make art. But even if I had a room of my own to fill with color and images of travel and beauty, I wouldn’t have much time to sit alone being inspired. My laptop bag is so heavy it sets the passenger seat belt siren off every time I drive, and yet I haul it around everywhere, like Gollum, hoping for a few minutes alone with it. That’s my current reality, along with work and winter and a messy house. If I’m honest with myself, all my Internet searches for inspiration are just a pleasant way of robbing myself of writing time. I’d be better off to quit searching for beauty and admit that creating something of beauty takes work and time and the only way I’m going to get it is to take it when I can. In a section about reasons for writing in Dinty Moore’s book, The Mindful Writer, he quotes Stephen King:

Yes I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single world down on paper with the thought of being paid for it … I have written because it fulfilled me. Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side–I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever. 
Dinty Moore writes, “It is good to be reminded that writing is not just hard work, not just worrying about being blocked, not just struggle. Stephen King refers to the buzz of writing, that feeling of exhilaration that comes when the writing is flowing, streaming out like the tail end of a comet. That’s the joy of it and the reason, I suppose, that we keep coming back.”  My job then, is to write through distractions and self-doubt and scattered fragments of time until I get to inspiration.
A final quote that Dinty Moore shared from E.L. Doctorow: “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”