‘Inspiration’– #AtoZ Challenge

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I think that the less you write, the more you wonder where successful writers get their inspiration. I always figured they were just more imaginative and creative than me, until ideas started coming to me and then I realised that it wasn’t so difficult to be inspired if you were curious about the world and if you’d cultivated the habit of being creative.

There’s a fantastic Ted Talk by Ken Robinson called Changing Paradigms where he speaks about the way we are educated. When we are very young, we play and are therefore allowed to express our natural creativity, but this disappears the more educated we become and Robinson puts this down to the effects of standardisation.

I must admit I always hated school, and it was probably for this reason. It didn’t help that I was quiet and shy and therefore misunderstood by most teachers. I found it difficult to learn as part of a group and it was only once I’d left school that I slowly started to be inspired by the world around me and that was when creativity truly began for me. We are all naturally creative but it’s something that can’t be taken for granted. As we grow older, it tends to fade as ‘real life’ takes over and we end up operating in a default mode, which doesn’t allow for ‘out of the box’ thinking.

Last year I did a mindfulness course and one aspect of mindfulness is curiosity i.e showing an interest in life and what’s going on around you. This necessitates fully engaging with the present moment and in so doing, you become inspired as a tiny, seemingly innocuous moment can provide sufficient inspiration for a poem, short story or piece of flash fiction.

I strongly believe that if you nurture your creativity, inspiration will follow and I’d recommend the following:

1/ Read a short story or chapter of a novel
2/ Watch an indie film or short film
3/ Visit an photography or art exhibition
4/ Participate in flash fiction challenges, especially those with prompts or themes.

I’m sure that if you try these things, ideas and words will naturally arise.
The great thing about regularly nurturing your creativity is that it has a domino-like effect. The more you create, the more easily you’re able to do it. 😀

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The Mindful Art of Being Sick

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A couple of weeks ago I succumbed to the flu and I must admit I was pretty down. For anyone living alone, getting sick is truly horrible – there’s nobody there to make you chicken soup or give you a hot water bottle, and when you’re used to constant ‘busyness’ as I am, it’s really tough to change this default setting.

Of course I naturally assumed that I’d be right as rain the next day – I was super fit after all – I worked out most days and took the best multi-vitamins and supplements, and admittedly I did feel slightly better but not well enough to do anything too demanding so when I woke up I wandered despondently into the kitchen. However, instead of grabbing a coffee and toast as I usually would, I sat down and thought about what I really wanted and chose fruit and muesli which I ate slowly in silence at the kitchen table.
After that I took a shower, and instead of using my usual leftover Body shop gel, I remembered some beautiful organic body wash I’d been given for Christmas, and as I breathed in the gorgeous aromas of lavender, geranium and neroli, my spirits began to lift (and I chucked the old stuff in the bin afterwards!).

As an exercise addict, whenever I’m not working I’ll shoot off to the gym for 90 minutes, whether I feel like it or not, but as this wasn’t an option today I decided to get a manicure, something I’d never do on a Monday morning. I didn’t choose red as usual either, but opted for dark blue, a colour I’d never had before. I normally find manicures a bit of a drag, but today was different as I chatted to the nail technician about her country, Vietnam and her impressions of London, whereas generally I’d just sit there with my hands out, fixating on what I had to do afterwards.
After my nails, I went shopping. Usually I’d race around the supermarket buying the same things each time, but today as I wandered slowly down the aisles, I spotted products that I’d never normally notice in my default mode, and afterwards I came home and made a sweet potato and chorizo soup – something I’d never done before.
What I’m basically saying is that in my sick state I couldn’t do things quickly as I simply didn’t have the energy. Consequently I was thinking more about what I truly wanted from each moment and focusing on one thing at a time which was infinitely more rewarding. Of course it’s awful to be sick, but the biggest thing it’s taught me are the benefits of slowing down and you don’t have to be sick to remember them.

Slowing down

1/ Makes you unitask rather than multitask. It’s human nature to try to multitask but by focusing on one thing at a time, you do that thing more thoroughly and feel more satisfied and less stressed as a result. A simple thing such as sitting down to have breakfast can make it feel like a special event, as it continues to do for me.

2/ Makes you truly consider your choices and gets you out of your default mode of always doing the same things in the same way. Trying something different (blue nail polish and sweet potato and chorizo soup for me!), can cultivate a sense of curiosity in your life and make you feel as if you’re truly living it.

Unless you consciously seize control of your auto-pilot, life will continue slipping through your fingers
̴ Dr Danny Penman

3/ Helps your mind become quieter as you focus more on the present. By slowing down your body, your mind adapts accordingly and you feel calmer and less worried about the future. I’ve come to realise that the only time that matters is now!
4/ Improves your personal interactions as you completely focus on the other person and give your attention to that conversation (as was the case for me at the nail salon).
In a guided meditation I did recently, the speaker discussed the importance of personal interactions and really listening to what the other person had to say. In so doing,

the power of our connections become infinitely more intimate and meaningful
̴ Joseph Goldstein.

January is said to be the most depressing month of the year and it’s obvious why. It’s cold, there’s little to look forward to and nobody has any money. It’s also the time when many people get sick, but there’s much we can learn from this experience, and as I approached the end of the day I talked about above, I found myself wishing that all my days were like this, with each activity segueing seamlessly into the next. Despite being sick, I felt calm, stress-free and happy and I’m sure this had a lot to do with having slowed down.

Reason to believe in prompts

I have every reason to believe in the use of prompts as ever since I picked up a copy of ‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ by Judy Reeves, the practice of writing in response to a prompt has greatly improved my writing.

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I’m currently doing quite a bit of reading on the subject of mindfulness and I’d strongly recommend ‘Mindfulness for Creativity,’ by Dr Danny Penman.
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In this book he says that mindfulness helps you to

observe how much of your life is controlled by habitual ways of thinking and approaching the world

and he suggests the practice of ‘habit breaking’ which will

broaden awareness, spark curiosity and open the doors to serendipity

I believe that this can be the case with writing. We very often write about topics which we feel we know well, and it could be that the end result is jaded and unimaginative. Writing on a prompt about which you (believe) you know very little can trigger your creative mind into producing something which you might never have done were you to sit down and write about a familiar subject.

I have to agree with Lisa Kraft’s comment,

Prompts are both joyful discovery and intense frustration.

https://rainbowhillmeanders.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/writing-prompts/

However, I’m now inclined to think that the ‘joyful discovery’ generally outweighs the ‘intense frustration’, and because of this I strongly recommend the use of prompts as a aid to creativity.

This post is in response to The Daily Post prompt: Reason to Believe