Inspiration Monday: Filling the well.

Several experiences topped up my well of inspiration. Maybe they’ll feed you too.

I’ve been reading Brian Grazer’s book, A Curious Mind. Grazer is a mega-successful movie producer (Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, etc) and he identifies curiosity as the key to his success, his creativity and a happy and engaged life. By having an open and enquiring mind, he has been comfortable with risk taking and exploration. Curiosity is the spark that kindles new creative explorations.

If you can look at learning a new skill, like, say, drawing, as a thing to learn about and explore, rather than an grim evaluation of yourself and your skills, you will make eager progress. If you are genuinely curious to learn about people, you will search out new connections and ask questions without preconceptions. If you are curious, you will not let the past hold you back. If you live a curious life, you will fill your head with a rich soup of influences, ideas and inspiration. You will make new connections which will lead to new ideas and creations.

As Glazer puts it, “Life isn’t about finding the answers. It’s about asking the questions.”

Last week, Jenny and I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see Refuse the Hour, William Kentridge’s multimedia chamber opera. We went with zero knowledge about what the piece was about (Jenny impulsively bought the tickets on craigslist at the last minute). I vaguely knew of Kentridge as an artist but was surprised to think he had made a stage work. Turns out he has a rich resumé in many forms and has even staged operas at La Scala, the mecca of grand opera.

Refuse the Hour is about his lifelong fascination with time, its plasticity and relativity, and the piece brimmed with fresh insights. It combines a poetic script, incredible vocal performances enhanced with audio processing, mechanical musical sculptures, dance, an orchestra playing modified instruments and film projections that layer drawings over performances

What I took away from the evening was the incredible act of creative collaboration between a score of enormously talented people. The program fairly bulged with accomplishment. Each person — the dramaturg, the choreographer, each musician, the singers — had paragraph after paragraph of accomplishments. Honestly, any one of them could have been the headliner, but they all worked together in a joyous harmony. There were so many unusual intersections between the forms, it couldn’t possibly have come from a single creative mind.

One singer took a refrain from the script Kentridge read, and turned it into a aria running up and down the scales. Another singer then sang the same aria backwards into a megaphone, perfectly mimicking all of the reversed breaths and shifts. Then an artist played an array of airpumps venting through brass horns. Next a tuba and a modified trombone took over. Meanwhile, a flickering projection of Kentridge’s hand turning the pages of a sketchbook was layered on top of a couple fighting in a stark painted kitchen set in gorgeously coordinated graphic costumes. I could go on and I would never approximate the tapestry of ideas and skills on display.

Above all, the experience urged me to think of new ways I can collaborate with others in such an open and generous way. The power of Ours over Mine is immense and exciting.

BigMagicFinalI am also reading Elizabeth Gilberts’ latest book: Big Magic. The author of Eat Pray Love has become somewhat of a self-help guru and is now focussed on thinking about the creative process and how to overcome fear.

I really like the book. Liz has a wonderful, chatty writing style, confessional and inspiring. I was particularly caught up with one notion: that ideas are a life form that inhabit the world just like dogs and walruses and have a single purpose — to be made manifest. They appear to us creators and it is up to us to shun them or to adopt them.

If we do take them on, we now have a responsibility to show up and do the work to make them come to life. If we fail in holding up our end, the ideas will wither and then slip away. Ultimately it will then appear to someone else. Drag your feet if you must, but don’t be surprised if ‘your’ idea eventually blossoms attached to another artist’s name.

I love this idea. It takes away the pressure of judgment, of self-evaluation, and replaces it with a spark which it is up to us to kindle. We don’t own the idea. We are simply its collaborator. Liz’s perspective turns the wasteful drama of self flagellation into a joyous, if sweaty, dance.

What have you read, seen, experienced, or thought of recently that could inspire me and others? Please share your discoveries and help fill my well with inspiration.

80 thoughts on “Inspiration Monday: Filling the well.”

  1. This is a wonderful post Danny – wow – the short animation is beautiful. I’ve just finished a 6 wk course on mindfulness and it puts into form how our poor over-stimulated brain often has a way of ‘hijacking’ our behaviour and being readily distracted. The course covers being able to acknowledge our thoughts which can over-ride our ability to move ideas into creative form – but doesn’t go into what creativity is. I work on research collaboration and it’s an area of great interest to me – to link artistic collaborators more directly with traditional science processes

    Liked by 9 people

  2. While researching black and white books for infants, I came upon one an artist made from great master images. It I spired me to create one for my grandson who will be born in January. The images are from works of Picasso, Matisse, Bearden, Warhol and others. Black images on white canvas were painted and then framed in felt. The book is a way to stimulate vision in infants and I troduce him to fine art images.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Recently finished “Diary: How to Improve the World..” by John Cage, motivated by Kay Larsen’s, ‘Where the heart beats…” which is about John Cage and his creative life. Honestly, combine some of that activity with Sketchbook Skool, Lynda Barry and her books, plus her Tumblr page, and the SBS facebook playground, Koosje’s Tuesday art jewels, and her regular posting, Roz Stendhal’s blog, this blog and I tell you this is powerful stuff. By the way, what book did Barb read made from great master images? Great post. By the way does Sketchbook Skool need a curator of inspiration so nobody gets blown up?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Great post!!! I just LOVE when people share insights and inspiration… just as YOU do via this blog. There is always something fun to learn.

    I have recently become fascinated with Brene Brown. Listening to her TED Talks and reading her books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong have really opened my mind about the creative process and vulnerability. I always knew that we ‘creatives’ think differently than the rest of the world… and most of us are introverted, yet we continue to ‘put ourselves out there’. Vulnerability is important for connection.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Danny, I’m so glad you brought up Big Magic! I love it! I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to Liz twice, once at a women’s conference, and then at a lecture on the joys of travel sponsored by the university where I work. This book feels like a letter from an encouraging friend with the basic message of “get over yourself and get back to work”. When I think of all the people I’ve gotten to “know” through the internet, I don’t how I managed without their encouragement, enthusiasm and spark for life. Thank you, Danny, for getting that ball rolling! We are all connected. Life is about living and being in community with one another.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Schedule a Curiosity Conversation with her. I, too, recently read Brian’s book “A Curious Mind” and am inspired to have some conversations with people I’m curious about.

        Liked by 4 people

  6. Loved this blog and idea of sharing, collaborating, inspiring, asking, and very importantly BECOMING. We don’t ever have to stop becoming! “Poems from the Pond” the writings of Peggy Freydberg (1908-2105) were published shortly after her death at the age of 107. Peggy started writing poetry at 90. Producer Laurie David, was the book’s editor, and here is a lovely interview with him about how he met Peggy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/laurie-david_55ae59aee4b08f57d5d27b49
    On the inside cover of her book a short quote holds its own:

    “But this morning,
    I found a lighter heart.”

    All of her poems are “pulse quickening” as Geraldine Brooks describes them.
    All of her words are moving:

    “This afternoon will be sipped, not gulped; tea served in china cups and saucers; considered words; a hovering calm. Everything will happen in its own unrushed moment, and the ordinary will take on the air of occasion.”

    I’m reading Anne Lamott’s instructions on writing and life, and trying to remember to take my creativity “Bird by Bird”.

    There are so many of us out there. Thanks so much Danny for inspiring me this morning!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I saw your fantastic animation of that man pacing in front of that mesmerizing book background, and watched in admiration and let my thoughts flit back and forth with his steps. Then I put EG’s book on my Wishlist & tonight I will add 1667 words to my novel. My well runneth over. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Hamilton! Lin-Manual Miranda is huge inspiration, and the whole show has this running thread about how Hamilton writes like he’s running out of time (“Why do you write like you’re running out of time? / Write day and night like you’re running out of time? / Ev’ry day you fight, like you’re running out of time”), how he’s “not throwing away my shot”, so much hunger and rushing towards fitting everything into what little time he’s got and not wasting the opportunities he can find.

    It’s been a huge inspiration to me for the past few months (I even sketched while watching the show on Broadway), and I highly recommend watching the show or at least listening to the soundtrack.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Taking the class “Liberated Artist”
    from Paivi Eerola about letting go and freedom. BEST class ever to loosen up and goes hand in hand with your statement above: it takes away the pressure of self judgement and evaluation and replaces it with a spark which is up to us to kindle.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’m enjoying Big Magic myself right now, devouring every page. Thanks always for your inspiration Danny – I save your blog posts to read when I have time to savor them! By the way, is that your animated sketch on the text pages at the top of your blog post? Fantastic!

    Liked by 5 people

  11. I am taking an online course called A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment. It is research-based so there is lots of data, some of which supports the following: Our need for superiority has a negative effect on Happiness, Success and Productivity. I love this idea because once you stop trying to be better than someone or anyone at anything, you can get down to the real work of being who you are. The course delves into the effects of seeking control, distrusting others and life and ignoring the source within. I just finished the lecture on gratitude. The class has encouraged me to look in the mirror and reflect, developing my self-awareness along the way.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. Several books:
    James Gurney “Color and Light” for artists looking to improve their painting skills. I am blown away how simply he gets his point across plus his illustrations, paintings and the masterpieces he used to help get his point across were wonderful. Added bonus, when you order a book from him, he autographs it with a quick little sketch.

    James Gurney “Imaginative Realism”….Danny, it should be on every illustrator’s desk. He gives you tips and pointers for how to draw what doesn’t exist but his process can be used for any subject. I was delighted with the sketch he signed my book with!

    Clare Walker Leslie….”Drawn to Nature through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie”…one of my students introduced me to this artist’s books. Not on the Internet, not on Facebook….she seems to totally abstain from technology but her book is delightful. She would make a great Sketchbook Skool Instructor.

    Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E Roth….”Keeping a Nature Journal” similar to
    Cathy and Roz..

    Also, I was told every artist should read “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri…good book with old school advice.

    I also liked “The Painter’s Keys” by Canadian Artist Robert Genn. His book and his bi-weekly newsletters were chock full of advice, inspiration and pick me ups for artists. He died of pancreatic cancer a while back and his daughter writes the newsletters now. I miss his posts, though. It is his Artist Prayer and Artist Commandments that I glue into every one of my sketchbooks to remind me that to not create art is a sin.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. I also really like Clare Walker Leslie’s Drawn to Nature. I think it’s in the SBS spirit of drawing as a malleable tool to see. Love how she makes the discipline accessible to anyone who can hold a pencil.

    I’m thinking of the liturgy of the hours as a seminal concept for a series, maybe an accordian-type book. Vespers, Compline, Vigils, Lauds/Matins, Prime, Terce, Sext, None…..David Stendl-Rast’s The Music of Silence introduced me to the many images reflected in the practice.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. I really liked the part about ideas being living beings . sometimes words can completely change the feel of what you are looking at.so please keep sharing, for even if you are talking about someone else’s quotes , you are building a new window for me ^_^

    Liked by 6 people

  15. I definitely agree with you that ideas are a huge form of inspiration 🙂 In my recent post (https://forwardjourneyblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/the-amazing-infinitely-complex-and-powerful-fire-within-you/) I recommend writing ideas down each day to cultivate creativity and spark motivation. It doesn’t matter, just as you point out in your post, if the idea takes of and makes you millions, or becomes a huge successful project. Just creating the idea is what truly inspires you, and if that’s all you get out of it, that’s still a huge positive boost to your life!

    Liked by 7 people

  16. I guess my new experience/inspiring story of the week is my blog, because it’s a new thing and I wanted to try it out. I’ve always wanted to have something that entirely is made by me, is based on me or my interests and I contribute to. I’m also doing a project which pushes me out of my comfort zone which is called NaNoWriMo, and I’m finding it quite challenging. It’s where you have to write a novel in a month and I’ve got a tiny total word count at the moment… BUT I WILL COMPLETE THE CHALLENGE!! I’m only thirteen but I think I’m doing pretty good. 🙂 love your posts by the way, they’re really interesting!

    Liked by 6 people

  17. What an unexpected gift you’ve given me tonight!. I’ve stumbled upon your blog accidentally as I contemplate opening my own business. Thank you for your inspirational review of Grazer, it’s curiosity that has brought me to my decision and greatest adventure yet.

    Liked by 6 people

  18. I’ve been thinking about reading Big Magic. Your summation has convinced me that it’s a book for me. I wasn’t certain given the publisher’s summary. Thank you. Your writing on curiosity and collaboration have given me a lot to consider. Thank you.

    Liked by 5 people

  19. A curious mind – this sounds like a book I really want to read. I have always been curious but while I asked questions, it was always to find an answer. I never asked questions just for the sake of exploration. Risk scares me, the unknown scares me, but it’s so boring to stand still.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. A very beautiful inspiring text. About what concerns me, I have to say that the only thing that always keeps inspiring me in such a magnificent way is nature…human nature, biological nature, earth nature…..

    Liked by 4 people

  21. Thank you. I undertook a self defence course a while ago and the most profound message I took away is to stop the resistance. To be able to let go of something you first have to go with it. It helped me enormously in a lot of ways and I’m still learning it’s true potential.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I just posted about my inspiration of the week. It involves being thankful for what we HAVE … not what we don’t have. People just need a little push to realize that the things they are thankful for are all around them. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Thank you for the introduction to Grazer’s book! It’s now on my list. Elizabeth’s book was already on my list. How much time to you spend reading about creating vs. actually creating? I struggle to organize my creative mind!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Wow this is a wonderful piece of inspiration in itself. I feel so energized. Last night I was up writing until 2:30. I couldn’t sleep. As one of my favourite spiritual teachers says “If you can’t sleep…GET UP!” – Ester Hicks/Abraham. So I got up and I wrote! It was so fluid! The words fell out of me. It is funny, one of my friends just mentioned to me this book big magic and then this morning when I wake up I read your connection to it. Imagine all of the sleepless nights you lay in bed awake with thoughts and ideas in your head. What if we just sprung out of bed and wrote them down? Paid them some attention… We would be writing musicals ourselves! I love how you indulge in you city on a whim. I too like to discover Toronto in a similar way. Explore the crevices. I must admit it is something I do less of at this moment, but you have inspired me to get back out there! Curiosity is our greatest teacher. You hit that spot on for me. This was such a delight to wake up to! Thank you so much. Keep writing, you are an absolute inspiration. My day will flow in a whole new way now because of this article and all of the inspiring participants here in the comments! Love within, love around. -ENB

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Hi! Very inspiring post. Never heard about W. Kentridge, although I am working for theatres in Germany. Colaboration is very important indead, but some professional artists forget about it backstage / during rehearsals! I saw “Kabale und Liebe” (a drama from F. Schiller) at the theatre in Cassel lately. Maybe you like to check out the trailer to get an idea of German theater productions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzMwIzJgzXs All the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Reblogged this on LISTEN TO THAT HEART! and commented:
    Writing has never been hard but blogging up my first post definitely was! My first writing is something very similar to this and its beautiful how I stumbled upon your work; its a lovely piece. Inspires me to choose to explore and not criticise myself as much as I do! Yes, just go with the flow and learn perhaps… Thank u!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Writing has never been hard but blogging up my first post definitely was! My first writing is something very similar to this and its beautiful how I stumbled upon your work; its a lovely piece. Inspires me to choose to explore and not criticise myself as much as I do! Yes, just go with the flow and learn perhaps… Thank u!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I am reading two books by Steve Harvey, Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success and Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. If we are not curious how do we intend to provide solutions to our problems and having a vision without action is a waste of time and action without vision is dangerous! Thanks for the write up.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Thanks so much for the tips to find inspiration again 🙂
    It can get lost too quickly and we do forget too often that even though it is our responsibility to enable a idea in your head, whether it’s through a poem or art or whatever, you can’t force it at all and that you should just let it be and give it time to be expressed when you fully understand the idea and what you want to do with it.
    Will definitely check out what you suggested 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I love the man on the book. It has caught my eye a few times and now reading your blog I am happy to have another place to stimulate my brain. A 3 year debilitating back injury has forced me to “Paint my stripes a different color.” Not changing the fabric of who I am but allowing others portions of me to emerge. Once again opening my heart to embrace the Artist within me rather than the athlete, a massive change as the last 16 years of my life have been surrounded by mountain culture and movement. It is an interesting and creative process to completely reinvent oneself. I have passed through the anger of giving up a life I love, and now sit smiling with winter sun shining on my face and possibility glowing in my heart. I’m inspired to sing and play my guitar, to draw cartoons of my new puppy, and begin writing my first book! Thanks for instigating this conversation with so many interesting responses. I hope all of you find inspiration in the simple things today. Vanessa

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Amazing write up. This is very inspiring, I’ve recently started a blog sharing all the experiences I’ve come across. Creativity is something I feel we all possess, it’s all about working with one another and making new connections within ourselves to bring out our amazing talents.

    Like

  32. Beautiful. my biggest boost of inspiration came from seeing my wife give birth to my son. It was an epic mission which uncovered to me the real and deep beauty of life. Ever since that day my life is changing rapidly. Career, friends, perspective and all. Always great to find other inspired individuals.

    Like

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