Earlier this summer, a friend I hadn’t seen in a very long time asked me where I glean my inspiration from. He was referring to my writing. He didn’t want to know about my career–he wasn’t concerned with knowing the publications I write for, or even the type of content I specialize in–he wanted to know about what motivates me.
At the time, about 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in the diviest of dive bars, I was blindsided by the question. After several years during which writing (for work or even pleasure) had been completely set on the back-burner, I was just thrilled to finally be carving out the time for me again, and to be regaining a sense of my identity that I feared was lost for good.
When I struggled to answer, he pressed on. “Well, which books, blogs or even TV shows inspire you? Surely you must admire other people’s work and use that to motivate your own?”
And then I started to feel like a schmuck, because I really couldn’t think of anything at all. I realized then, just as I do now, that this made me come across as arrogant. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. At the time I knew very well I was constantly being inspired, I just couldn’t immediately point to the books, blogs and TV shows that moved me to write, or helped me determine my content.
And let’s be honest — since the birth of the twins (and probably well before), even though I’ve always been an avid reader and TV junkie, I just haven’t had a ton of time to consume these beloved-to-me forms of media (my book club can surely attest to this). I’m not even sure I could name a current TV show, and I am positive I haven’t set foot in a movie theater in at least two years.
In the weeks following this conversation, I thought about it constantly. It nagged me to no end. I couldn’t shake the icky feeling that I sounded shallow, or that I couldn’t name one — just one! — other body of work that inspired and urged me to put my own pen to paper everyday.*
Then, the other night, as I was snuggling with my daughter during bedtime, it finally hit me: though I love entertaining and interesting books, blogs and TV shows, my muse is life.
Life is my muse.
It is now, and it always has been. Which is why I’ve gone through periods where I’ve had a difficult time writing at all; periods in which I’ve been depressed and the world around me seemed dark and bleak, and other periods in which I’d completely and totally lost myself, to the point that I had nothing to say.
But my sense of creativity flows most when my eyes are open, and I’m fully engaged in the world around me. It is humankind, and the connection between us (relationships), our similarities and differences, and the ways in which we interact, that have always been my greatest inspiration.
My previous blog was entitled “The Shared Journey”, and I wrote it in an effort to (in my small way) unite humankind. In fact, other than the fact that writing is my lifeline–truly my breath–and I often don’t know how I am feeling about something until I jot it down, the point of my writing has always been to connect with others, to highlight our similar stories (our shared journeys), and to make people feel less alone (we all go through stuff–it may be different stuff, yes, but our feelings about that stuff are all very common and relatable; why not connect through that rather than feel isolated and polarized?).
I am not sure why, in the moment, I was unable to think of and articulate these feelings. I have never strayed from this sentiment; life, our shared journey, the human experience–these have always been my greatest motivators for why and what I write. This fascination is also what led me to pursue my graduate degree in marriage and family therapy.
Perhaps it was because I was caught off-guard, or perhaps it was because I was coming off a long road of feeling depleted, a bit hopeless and lost. Whatever the case, I am grateful for the conversation, because it’s made me remember–and once again see–that under all the sh*t going on in the world today, at the end of the day we are all just humans, in relationship to and with one another, who are all sharing in one collective human experience. And that — that is exactly where I glean my inspiration from.
*Note: Since I’ve started getting just a tad more sleep at night (thank you, children!), I have been able to remember some of my very favorite and most motivating mentors and pieces of work: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion; anything at all written by Anne Lamott; All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; all books and TedTalks by Brene Brown; Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; my amazing mentor and grad school professor, Jen Elmquist, LMFT (she’s so smart, a relationship guru–seriously–and has written a fantastic new book); and since I’ve become a mom, I devour articles on ScaryMommy, and of course the parenting site I can’t live without (and currently write/edit for), Lucie’s List.