My best touchstone for understanding true inspiration is what I experienced when I first saw Michaelangelo's David. I was spending my last week of a semester abroad in Italy, and while I knew that Italy was a place that dream vacations were made of, I was just tired. After four months of traveling and having surreal once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the tiresome feeling of homesickness had set in. Rome was unbelievable, but I was reaching the end of my ability to absorb things, and I was really tired of sweaty, smelly European cities. Basically, I was being a grump. Then we moved onto Florence, and one of the first places we went was the Gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti, which houses the David. I turned the corner, and entered the Tribuna, and there it was. This statue, this creation, was in all honesty, the most beautiful piece of art I had ever seen. (Keep in mind, that by this time I had toured the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay in Paris, so I had a good frame of reference.) He stopped me dead in my tracks. Every irritation and pang for home evaporated. All that mattered in that moment was the magnificence of what genius can create. I was absolutely transfixed, afraid to look away in case the feeling disappeared. In fact, after a long time, one of my travelling companions had to come to my side and say, "Ok, I know you love him, but there are other things to see in Florence." I couldn't imagine what else there was to see that could make me feel this way. Nothing I had seen in every country I had traveled to had moved or inspired me the way that that sculpture did. Even remembering it now, I feel a bit trembly and excited.
The problem is that Florence, Italy, is not accessible in my daily life. And while photographs and art books are a wonderful thing, they just cannot do that precious work justice. So I am learning that I need to find other things, things that are a part of my daily life and perhaps go unnoticed, because I shouldn't live my life totally devoid of that feeling, of the David Factor. I accept, rationally, that I am no Michaelangelo, but I wonder what I could create if I could somehow maintain that feeling of wonder and amazement, the feeling that unfathomable things are possible if we can just fire up our talents and go.
So I thought I would make a list. A list of the things in my life that inspire me. The things listed here are moments or thoughts or anything that make my blood rush, my toes tingle, and my ears ring. They make me fidgety and bubbly, and best of all, hopeful. Most important for me, these things help me to write, because they help me to get in touch with who I really am. So...
- Hearing new music. Encountering a band or a singer that just clicks for me, whose talent completely takes me out of myself and my day. It's like learning a really wonderul secret that you are dying to share, but you also want to keep to yourself.
- Crisp, sunny fall days. Probably a product of 16 years of school, but when fall comes, and the breeze gets a bit chilly, I begin to feel excited, like a new year is starting and new things are possible.
- The blessing of a really great book. I can sometimes almost lose consiousness because I am so engrossed in an exceptional story or a character. And when I finish a book like that? I feel powerful and enlightened, charged up.
- Hiking in the woods or walking on the back roads. It's quiet, so quiet. You never realize how noisy your life is until you walk into the woods for a distance and then just stop. My brain almost sighs in relief, and then I will be flooded with ideas for stories or books. It's like I can suddenly hear myself, because I turned down the volume on the things that don't really matter, but distract me just the same.
Try making your own list. What things make your heart pound or make you feel suddenly, and unreasonably, happy? Imagine if you could incorporate those things into your everyday. Imagine how different your worldview would be if inspiration could find you a little more often.