Tag Archives: Inspiration

On Finding Scope for Imagination During Uncertain Times

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery

Anne Shirley has been on my mind recently. When I was a kid, I only ever read the first three books in the Anne of Green Gables series. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I discovered what happened to her in Windy Poplars and beyond, so her childhood to teen years made the biggest impression on me.

She was an imaginative girl who often flipped between bubbly enthusiasm and being in the “depths of despair” depending on what sort of trouble she might have accidentally found herself in.

stylized black and white drawing of woman in white dress touching butterflies the size of large owls. the blue, green, orange, and pink butterflies are the only splashes of colour in this scene.
This isn’t Anne, but I think she would have found scope for imagination in this sketch.

I’m fortunate to live in a walkable neighbourhood, so I can get nearly anything I need here without stepping onto the subway. This has been wonderful during the pandemic as I can walk by a nearby shop and see how busy it is before deciding whether I should buy groceries and other necessary supplies now or wait a day or two when there are fewer people there. photo of man walking down steps. Upper half of photo shows him walking upside down and up a pair of steps. image might be mirrored or something?

It also means that the days bleed into each other. I’m being so conscientious about where I go that I tend to see the same trees, shops, strangers, and even pigeons that I did last week, last month, and approximately a million years ago in March when the first wave of this pandemic hit Toronto.

(No, I’m not joking about the pigeons there. We have a flock of them that has chosen a specific area as their home and always returns to it after foraging elsewhere. I affectionally refer to them as our “pet” birds).

I used to find scope for imagination in things that I only saw and heard occasionally like attending specific street festival or planning an afternoon trip to a park in a different part of the city that requires one to ride the subway or take a streetcar with a multitude of strangers.

Now the only differences are changes in the weather and maybe the occasional new coat or pair of shoes a neighbour might want to show off if we pass each other on the street.

Like most of you, I’d imagine, my world is small, yet there is still scope for imagination here. The outside world might remain more or less the same from one day to the next, but that doesn’t mean your mind must do the same.

Even the smallest changes in a community can be attention grabbing now. The first autumn leaves that peeked out from a sea of green were prettier than they’ve been in years.

Bananas that are submerged in a bright yellow landscape.There are books to read and movies to watch that will take you anywhere you want to go, including places that weren’t accessible to mere mortals at all except through our imaginations!

Art museums themselves might be closed or scratched off many of our visiting lists, but art itself remains.

This is our new normal.

Someday future generations will ask what this time period was like.

I’m taking notes of my experiences. Some of them end up as blog posts here, while others have been scribbled down into a private journal I may pass down to my nephews someday.

Pretending to be a time traveller is another way to find scope for imagination. What is perfectly ordinary to us may be fresh and interesting to someone a century from now.

How would you explain the idiosyncrasies, irritations, and immeasurable moments of our era to them?

That one question in and of itself makes my mind tingle with possibilities.

Where have you all found scope for imagination recently?

I’ll Show You My Drafts Folder If You’ll Show Me Yours

Woman working in home officeWhy, yes, I did write the same sort of post last summer! It was such a smashing success that I’ve decided to do it again.

Last year’s peek at upcoming posts has since been edited to include links to everything that I ended up writing.

Some of the stuff listed below are ideas from last year that I didn’t end up writing then but plan or hope to change this time around.

Once again, I’ll edit this post to include links to the posts of anyone else who decides to write about this same topic. I love getting sneak peeks of what all of you are working on!

 

Title: Mindfulness Exercises for a Bad Mood

Publication Date: August 3

Why: This is something I talked about writing last year. My research into the topic has finally culminated in enough knowledge to share what I’ve learned.

Film poster for The Others. Image on poster is of Nicole Kidman looking scared.

Title: A Review of The Others

Publication Date: August 20

Why: The 2001 film The Others is my all-time favourite haunted house story. I’ve been raving about it here for years and finally found space in my editorial calendar to officially review it.  If you haven’t seen it yet, this is your chance to go rent it so we can gush about it together.

 

Title:Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Things to Do in the Autumn

Publication Date: September 23

Why: Autumn in Toronto is gorgeous and filled with amazing things to do, many of which are outdoors and therefore will hopefully not be affected by Covid-19. Fingers crossed.

 

Film poster for Us. Image on cover is of protagonist crying while holding a mask that looks identical to her face.

Title: Dodging Doppelgängers: A Review of Us 

Publication Date: October 15

Why: Am I the last person on Earth to see Us? Possibly.  It was still a great deal of fun to watch, though, and is perfect for Halloween, my favourite holiday.

 

Title: Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Funniest Things That Have Happened To Me

Publication Date: November 18

Why: These stories would otherwise never fit into the theme of this site. Their topics range from alternative uses for adamantium (the fictional alloy used to coat Wolverine’s bones in the Marvel universe) to what it’s like when acquaintences get so confused about certain facts about your life like your racial identity that they argue with you about how everything really must work.

 

Title: Stained Property: A Review of The Red Lodge (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Publication Date: December 3

Why: Did you all know that telling Christmas ghost stories was a tradition in England in the 1800s and early 1900s? Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories is a series of those tales. I’ve written reviews of all of them and will publish them in December 2020 and December 2021. This is something I’m really excited to share with you all as some of them aren’t well known at all in our era. And what’s better than shining light on excellent stories from the past? 

Person standing on snowy mountain while looking at aurora borealis at night

Title: Fitness and the Holidays

Publication Date: December 7

Why: Like a lot of folks, my healthy habits tend to slip up a bit over the holidays. I’ve been meaning to talk about this topic for years and decided to finally bite the bullet in 2020.

 

Title: My 20 Most Popular Posts of 2020

Publication Date: December 28

Why: One, I enjoy sharing the posts that resonated with all of you the most. Two, seeing how the trends change over time helps me figure out what to focus on in the coming year.

The number 2020 cut out of white paper and surrounded by confetti

Title: Search Engine Questions from 2020

Publication Date: December 31

Why: The pure frivolity of it all. Some of these search engine questions are hilarious but don’t make enough room to be expanded into a 500-1000 word post. So why not let them shine in a few sentences instead?

 

Title: What I Read in 2020

Publication Date: January 4, 2021

Why: This is something I’ve written about annually for a long time. It’s always fun to take a look back at how many books you’ve finished!

 

Woman reading book while sitting on a stone bench in a forest

Title: Modern Classics Series (tentative title)

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Eventually, I hope to start recommending science fiction and fantasy books written in the last 20 years that I believe will be considered classics in the future. I still need to do a lot more reading before beginning this series, though!

 

Title: How to Find Your Way Home in Minecraft

Publication Date: Unknown

Why: I stopped playing Minecraft. Someday when I regain my interest in it I hope to write this post.

 

Rolled up yoga mats

Title: 3 Benefits of Taking a Yoga Class

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Even if fitness classes were open here at the moment, Covid-19 and what we know about how it spreads makes this stuff far too high risk for me to take that gamble.

 

Title: Health and Fitness at the Library

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: *Me glaring at Covid-19 for shutting down all of the cool library programs I was going to promote here*

 

Title: 5 Places You Should Visit on a Trip to Ontario for Canada Day

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why:  Damn you, Covid-19!

I’ll Tell You About My Drafts Folder If You’ll Tell Me About Yours

Robot fingers gently touching human fingersEdited in August 2020 to include links to finished posts. 

It’s been a long time since this blog published a lighthearted writing post, so let’s change that.  Lately, I’ve been gently poking my drafts folder and trying to decide which posts in there, if any, are ready to finish and share with the world.

On a related note, finding an appropriate stock image photo for this post was tricky. It turns out that there is not a lot of demand out there for picture of draft folders!

I’d like to think that if draft posts literally had hands, they’d have five digits just like people do. Yes, I anthropomorphize everything. It makes life more interesting, and also gives me a better reason for using a photo of a robot and a human gently touching each other’s fingers.

But before I get too off track here, let’s talk about draft folders. Most of the time, I have half a dozen or so finished posts sitting in the queue waiting to be published. I also have dozens more posts in various stages of completion. Some of them might consist of a couple of words thrown into my list of ideas. Others have grown large enough to warrant a draft post in the backend of my blog.

Not everything on my ideas list becomes a post, story, or book, but their chances of being written into their final form jumps once I create a draft post for them. This can happen because I need to publish that post at a specific time of the year, or finish reading a book for it (in the case of reviews or recommendations), or have some other experience that would enrich my words.

I thought it would be entertaining to give all of you a peek into my drafts folder for my blog. There are fourteen posts there in various stages of completion or contemplation.

 

1. Title: What It Means to be Human: A Review of Chesya Burke’s “Let’s Play White”

Publication Date: September 5

Why: Earlier this year, Apex Magazine asked for volunteers to participate in a huge blogging bash that’s happening in September. I chose to review this book as my contribution to that bash.

 

2. Title: Autumn Worlds I’d Like to Visit

Publication Date: September 23

Why: This is the final part of a short series of posts I’ve done on books that remind me of specific seasons. It feels right to wait until autumn has officially began to publish it.

 

3. Title: Characters I’d Never Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner

Publication Date: October 14

Why: The idea for this post came from reading my search engine log. I thought it would be great for Thanksgiving (which happens in October in Canada).

 

4. Title: Mindfulness and Difficult People

Publication Date: December 2

Why: It’s a great topic, but I think it would have an even bigger impact during a time of the year when some of us may be spending time with folks we may not normally associate with.

 

5. Title: Fitness and the Holidays

Publication Date: December 16 (tentative)

Why: This is one of those ideas I’ve been playing around with for years. Maybe 2019 will be the year I actually publish it? Every December, I take a two week blogging break. I generally write lighthearted roundup or similar posts well ahead of time for that break, so you’ll see a lot of entries from late December and early January on today’s list.

 

6. Title: Search Engine Questions from 2019

Publication Date: December 26

Why: I need to wait until as late as possible in the year in order to make this post as funny and as accurate as possible.

 

7. Title: My 20 Most Popular Posts of 2019

Publication Date: December 30

Why: Obviously, this is a post I can’t put together or publish until the end of the year.

 

8. Title: What I Read in 2019

Publication Date: January 2, 2020.

Why: It’s not January yet. Unless someone has a crystal ball, I don’t see how I can write a post about what I’ve read ahead of time.

9. Title: 5 Places You Should Visit on a Trip to Ontario for Canada Day

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: As I was writing it, I realized that my answers were very Toronto-based because I spend so little time outside of my city. I think I need more experience visiting other parts of this province before I can say for sure where everyone should go.

 

10. Title: Modern Classics Series (tentative title)

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Eventually, I hope to start recommending science fiction and fantasy books written in the last 20 years that I believe will be considered classics in the future. I need to do a lot more reading before beginning this series, though!

11. Title: 3 Benefits of Taking a Yoga Class

Publication Date: Unknown.

Why: Earlier this week, I had originally planned on taking a yoga class and then blogging about it. I woke up with a sore, spasming muscle that morning and decided it was better to rest my body and try again at a different time. Maybe someday you’ll see this post go live!

 

12. Title: How to Find Your Way Home in Minecraft

Publication Date: Unknown

Why: I’m an intermediate Minecraft player, so I’m still deciding if the Internet needs another post about how to get un-lost in that game.

 

13. Title: Mindfulness Exercises for a Bad Mood

Publication Date: August 3, 2020

Why: People keep finding my blog with phrases like this one. Eventually, I do hope to write a full post about it once I’ve tried enough exercises.

14. Title: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Harry Potter Characters and Socks

Publication Date: September 2

Why: I’ve gotten multiple hits on my blog about Harry Potter characters wearing socks, Harry Potter characters who won’t wear socks, socks that feature Harry Potter characters, fuzzy socks, hand-knit socks, and just about any other sock-related query you can think of that so much as glances in the direction of the Potterverse. I am so tempted to write a full-length post on this topic. Would you write it?

 

Okay, you’ve seen my long list of drafts. I’m editing this post to include links to other people’s draft lists as they share them with me.

Patrick Prescott’s Work on Hold.

Top Ten Tuesday: Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Here are some of my favourite inspirational and thought-provoking quotes. I honestly have no idea what else to write in the introduction to this post, so let’s move on to the quotes!

1. “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  – Neil Gaiman, Coraline

2. “I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”  – Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret

3.  ““What you imagine as overwhelming or terrifying while at leisure becomes something you can cope with when you must-there is no time for fear.”   – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

4. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”  – Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968

5. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”  – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

6. “Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”  – Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

7. “Adversity is like a strong wind. It…tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be.” – Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

8. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  – Oscar Wilde, The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde

9. “There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”  – John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

10. “But remember, boy, that a kind act can sometimes be as powerful as a sword.” – Rick Riordan, The Battle of the Labyrinth

The Care and Feeding of Muses

Congratulations on being chosen by a muse! With a little forethought, the relationship you’ve begun with your source of inspiration will provide comfort and fresh ideas for your creative endeavours for the rest of your life.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of this relationship. Remember, every muse is unique. It may take some trial and error to figure out exactly what does and does not inspire you to start writing, singing, painting, or otherwise flexing your creative muscles.

The more often you practice, the better you’ll become at it. There is no better time to begin than today.

Caring for a Muse

Luckily, muses are hardy creatures. While mine has temporarily gone dormant when certain circumstances in my life didn’t leave enough time or energy for the creative process, it has always bounced back again once things improved for me.

Be gentle with yourself if you’re not currently able to create new content or if your progress is slower than you’d prefer to see. Think about the cycle of the seasons where you live. You may or may not know winter the way that us Canadians do, but every climate has its own unique pattern of growth, harvest, and rest.There is no such thing as a plant that blooms forever or a tree that creates bushels of fruit without ever needing a break from that process.

The same things happens with creative endeavours, too. Sometimes you will have an abundance of ideas and endless energy to make them come alive as a poem, sculpture, song, or any other number of things. Enjoy these times when they occur and make the most use out of them you can. In other seasons, your mind and muse may need to lay fallow for a short or long period of time before they’re ready to start creating again.

Feeding a Muse

The most important thing you can do for your muse is to feed it a varied diet. Just like a parent wouldn’t allow their child to eat nothing but candy and a pet owner wouldn’t feed Fido fistfuls treats for every meal of the day, your muse needs to be looked after in a similar way.

I can’t tell you what your muse will find useful, but I’d highly recommend giving it as many different types of stimuli  as you possibly can even if some of them might not be what you’d generally be drawn to in your free time. No, these experiences do not have to be expensive or involve travelling far away from home.

In fact, the vast majority of the things I do to feed my muse are free, and the rest often only require a few dollars for a subway fare if I remember to pack a lunch that day!

For example, you could:

  • Visit a local museum on a free or half-price day
  • Go for a walk in the woods or at the park
  • Borrow books from the library
  • Join a community group
  • Explore a new hobby or interest
  • Watch a local baseball game
  • Strike up a conversation with a friendly stranger
  • Go people-watching at a parade, festival, or other event
  • Browse in a store you’ve never visited before
  • Take a day trip to a nearby city, national park, or other imagination-ticking destination

The possibilities are endless. What matters is that you’re exposing yourself to things you might not normally spend any time thinking about during your regular routines.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Our job is to give our muses a chance to come up with ideas based on the interesting things you’ve done or learned lately and let them do the rest.

Taking Notes and Photographs

I used to carry around a trusty little notebook and write down all sorts of slices of life in it for future inspiration. Sometimes it was a memorable quote from a book and on other days it might have been a funny throwaway comment a stranger made on the bus.

I’ve since switched to taking notes on my smart phone, but the same basic principal remains. If I see something that piques the interest of my muse when I’m out and about, I’ll pause to take a photo or jot down a quick note of it before moving on with my day.

It’s easy to forget these little moments. By recording them for the future, you’ll have a long list of potential subjects to explore when you’re finally ready to write the outline of that book or start sketching.

Balancing Creative Productivity with Consuming Other People’s Work

I’ve found that spending too much or too little time consuming other people’s work has a negative effect on what I’m able to create as a writer.

As Thomas Merton once said, “no man is an island.” Humans are a social species, and this is especially true for us creative folks. The things that your muse comes up with often inspires my own if I strike an appropriate balance between creating and consuming!

Keeping it Useful

The important thing is to keep your consumption useful and to balance it with things that refill your creative tank.

For me this means spending as little time as I can on stuff that I find distracting like celebrity gossip or fear-mongering news stories. (Your mileage may vary on those topics). It also occassionally involves muting my phone and going off into nature for some quiet time.

Obviously, you’re not going to find too many caves or sprawling forests in downtown Toronto, but we still have plenty of quiet green spaces that are great for clearing one’s mind if you know where to look.

I love sitting on park benches and listening to the birds sing in the trees above me. There’s nothing as invigorating as having those experiences without translating them into words until long after I’ve come home again, if even then.

What do you all do to feed and care for your muses?