Imagine a Friday in April. Imagine a crystal blue sky. Imagine the warmth of the sun on your skin. Your skin feels like it moves of its own will toward the sun like a sunflower.
I chose to become a writer because of the joy I feel writing. Shaping words on paper felt as good as the warmth of the sun on my cheek—until I experienced writer’s block.
July, 2002. I signed up for a one week writing program at Centauri Arts. I desperately needed inspiration.
Imagine we collect joy and stories and experiences and creativity in a jar. Writing becomes as easy as taking the lid off the jar, catching the streams of inspiration as they swirl above our heads, and then scattering stories down onto the page into a masterpiece. Writer’s block abolished forever.
Is it possible to collect inspiration in a jar? Can writers learn inspiration?
As a child, I loved to play dress-up, to write in my spiral bound Return of the Jedi notebook, and to sing along with Anne Murray on my Fisher Price record player. Inspiration, creativity, and joy amused me daily.
As I grew up, fear tip-toed its way into my spirit. Anne Lamott explains: “Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.” I feared criticism and praise, failure and success, and the immensity of the creative spirit at work within me.
To be inspired, we need to conquer the dragon of fear. Julia Cameron agrees “fear is the true name for what ails the blocked artist.”
In my Centauri Arts course, we read aloud Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Marie Rilke each morning. Rilke reminds us to create for ourselves. He explains the work as an artist as inside-out. Inside, I worried about losing balance when I lost track of time. I obsessed about what others thought of my writing.
Julia Cameron writes: “Most of the time when we are blocked in an area of our life, it is because we feel safer that way.”
In 1999, I began my first novel. It became difficult. I stopped writing. At Centauri Arts, I reflected on what went wrong with the creative process. I asked questions about why I was afraid.
In his eighth letter, Rilke writes that only someone who is ready for anything can be alive. To write, I needed to be ready for anything. “We have no reason to mistrust our world for it is not against us.” This line pierced through my understanding of fear and served as a catalyst for change.
That week, I wrote a poem called “Art in a Jar.” The phrase sunshine in a jar arrived on my page.
Sunshine: Joy, spirit, imagination, happiness, creativity, inspiration, love
Jar: a glass container with a lid often used for preserving or collecting
Writers love metaphors. Metaphors weave experiences and relationships. Metaphors are evocative. Metaphors deepen understanding. Metaphors engage possibility, open hearts and minds, and invite multiple perspectives. Metaphors connect. Metaphors reside deep within our souls. We use metaphors to teach and we use metaphors to learn.
Sunshine in a jar captures my relationship with inspiration.
Writers collect names, experiences, stories, perspectives, and words, like a child collects caterpillars in a jar. We treasure our collections. We check in on them. We poke holes in the lid to make sure our collections can breathe until it’s time to play with them.
Writers rely on inspiration and creativity. We yearn for the chance to spread story with the reach of the rays of the sun. When I take the lid off my jar, inspiration streams out.
Welcome inspiration. Keep paper nearby to jot notes. Spill an idea on the page without judgment or expectation. Limit writing time to five hour blocks to ease the return to reality. Quiet the censor. Write energy. Play. Make the effort to come to the page and words will follow. Take long walks. Capture sunshine in a jar.
What inspires you?
By Jessica Outram