“The power of imagination makes us infinite.” John Muir
Last week, a good friend of mine asked if she could use some of my landscape photography on her new website. She thought my images were really inspiring and just what she needed. For me, this was a wonderful compliment, especially as it came from another creative person – and it got me thinking about all the things that inspire me.
The obvious ones are in my blog’s header – travelling, hiking, cycling, volunteering – but the truth is, everything around us, even the most mundane object, has the potential to inspire. Being observant is also important, although, ironically, I have a friend who jokes with me because I don’t always notice things. “How can you be a travel writer, if you’re not observant,” he laughs.
It’s a good question. I think I am observant; I just notice things selectively. I’ve walked the same route to work for four years, yet I didn’t notice a funny business name on a building until a work colleague recently pointed it out. But I do notice flowers in backyards, autumn leaves blowing in the wind, late afternoon light on buildings or trees and, without fail, the crazy drivers on the road (but I guess that’s just self-preservation rather than fine observation skills).
For me, inspiration comes at the strangest times. When I see someone doing anything odd on a train, I’m immediately transported to the New York subway, where I once saw a guy with a huge snake draped around his neck. (Mental note, I still haven’t written about that day!)
I’ll be reading a novel, watching a movie, having a conversation with a friend or walking on the treadmill at the gym, and find myself scrambling for a pen and paper to jot something down. I’m inspired by artists – photographers, painters, sculptors and musicians.
Most recently, I was watching a performance by The Black Arm Band at the Melbourne Recital Centre and an idea for a blog just flooded over me. On the one hand, I just wanted to lose myself in the musical journey and not be thinking about writing. But, on the other hand, the idea was too vivid to ignore. I found myself scribbling tiny scrawled notes onto the only piece of paper I could find – my ticket for the event. The story I wrote from that flash of inspiration is, I think, my best piece of writing since I began this blog (My journey with The Black Arm Band).
One of my more tongue-in-cheek articles was inspired after I found the film location of my favourite TV show, Supernatural, while I was holidaying in Vancouver (Supernatural, Twitter and the reluctant groupie). It was so much fun watching the cast and crew being creative… and it definitely inspired my own creativity. I think this is especially true if it’s something you’re passionate about.
On those rare occasions, when I find out that I’ve actually inspired someone, it’s always a great thrill. It’s wonderful to know that someone has gone travelling because they enjoyed something I wrote, or that my photographs have provided inspiration for another creative person. The first time this happened to me I was in my early 20s (when I hadn’t done anything with my photography and hadn’t even considered writing as a career). I was visiting family in Vancouver and we were looking at my slides from Africa. My brother’s sister-in-law, Elaine, herself an artist, asked if she could get some reprints made. She wanted to use them as inspiration for her paintings.
This was such a huge boost to my confidence, something I’ve never forgotten, and I only recently got to see the results. Elaine’s work is online (please click here), but she has kindly allowed me to share the wonderful paintings that were inspired by my photographs.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration. It’s not something that always comes on demand, but when you do have that flash of inspiration, it’s a truly wonderful thing.
“Inspiration and genius – one and the same.” Victor Hugo
What inspires you? Please share your ideas in the comments below.