We are the stories we tell ourselves

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Human beings connect through story. We define our individual selves by story. We even define our universe in terms of the stories we tell ourselves.

And despite often sharing experiences with others, my understanding and interpretation of those experiences—my personal Truth—is the story that I build around those experiences.

If I see something I have never seen before, I immediately construct a story. I give it context from items around it or its location or its presence at this time of day.

And remarkably, if I came upon this same thing tomorrow rather than today, the story I construct then might be entirely different from the one I build today.

Thus, story is malleable. It lives and breathes as we take in new information from our surroundings and incorporate that information into the story, making tweaks and adjustments to ensure that everything continues to make sense.

When the story doesn’t make sense, when congruence is lost, we get upset, and in some cases, put up hostile blinders. This is when human beings lose connection.

Because story is such a personal thing, the Creative—whom I define as anyone who pursues a task with passion—is faced with an essentially insurmountable challenge: How do I share my story through myriad personal filters?

Ultimately, you cannot control how another receives and interprets your story.

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What is my story for this work? What story did the Creative intend?

Even if the Painter tells me her intent in painting a portrait or landscape, the Novelist types out in no uncertain terms precisely what he means to convey, the Musician strikes notes and chords to instill specific feelings, I can remain oblivious to those intents, consciously or un-.

This simply is; and we can only hope that it does not negatively influence the passion to create.

That passion, the drive to create, must be given voice, however; and so the Creative moves forward, doing his or her best to share (much as I am doing now in writing this).

A dedicated Creative struggles on, regardless of the insurmountable barriers, and strives to convey the most effective story he or she can, looking for ways to layer thoughts and emotions and spiritual energies onto the personal stories of others.

We practice what we know. We experiment with the unknown. We seek guidance and critical analysis.

And most importantly, we accept that we will never achieve 100% success instilling our stories in others, and yet push ourselves and our Art as if it were possible.

As Creatives, as people of passion, that is central to our stories.

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If you’re interested in learning how to build stories more effectively, seeking guidance for nascent projects or critical analysis of existing works, feel free to check out my website So, What’s Your Story or reach out to me here or via my Facebook page.

In the meantime, I wish you all the success in the world.

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Finding inspiration

Inspiration

Where do you find inspiration? What causes one moment to pass completely unnoticed and another to trigger a flurry of activity?

Truth be told, I don’t think inspiration comes from outside but rather from within. The exact same moment viewed at different times by the exact same individual may result in completely different responses depending on the openness of the individual to inspiration.

When you are open to inspiration, you witness and experience life through a completely different lens, one that sees connections and patterns between events and objects that do not necessarily exist in the forms themselves.

The priests sitting in the bar become a foil for the man trying to pick up women. The dog urinating on a building becomes the unwitting initiator of the death of 275 people in an office tower. The crows on the telephone lines become dark angels surveilling the land, awaiting the arrival of a malevolent spirit.

The irony of inspiration coming from within, however, is that it is something you cannot really will into existence. You can easily sit for hours with pen poised over paper, awaiting inspiration’s wafting arrival, only to realize that days have gone by without result. And trying to force your way through artistic constipation only seems to worsen the situation as you strain against the blockage by forcing invisible connections. Rarely, if ever, will inspiration make itself known to you in this way.

All you can really do is till the soil in which inspiration will implant itself and hopefully germinate. Rather than clear away all distraction, you may find it better to envelope yourself in distraction. By allowing the mental and spiritual noise to flow over, under and through you, you remove the hard edges of the real world and let the boundaries criss-cross in chaotic flux, searching for new patterns that your mind’s eye can mark.

It may also be helpful to engage your mind in someone else’s art, whether of the same medium as yours or no, but remembering to also give your mind permission to wander.

There is no exam at the end of the novel you’re reading. No request to reproduce the painting you are viewing. No critical essay to argue once the concerto has ceased.

So let yourself go and let yourself respond—consciously and viscerally—to the art. Let a word, image or note ricochet through your mind until it attaches itself to an earlier thought or feeling. Don’t try to define or even understand the clusters that form but rather observe them until the need to create takes hold.

Inspiration is about the initial amount of discovery, not the final product. An ephemeral spirit, inspiration is likely to dissipate at your first attempt to put a leash on it. You cannot present inspiration with a road map and expect it to clear the path ahead. Rather, you must follow inspiration as it meanders, bearing witness to the miracles it triggers.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere and anywhere, when you are ready to let it be seen.

Give up or surrender

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You’ve hit a wall. You’ve banged your head on your desk for an hour; two; ten. Staring out the window—your go-to maneuver for the last decade—has gotten you nowhere. Is it time to give up?

Might I recommend surrendering instead?

In case this sounds confusing, there is a difference between the two options.

Giving up is about accepting failure. It’s the belief that there is no solution to your problem or if there is a solution, you’re not the one who will come up with it.

Giving up is about telling yourself that you’re not good enough, strong enough, smart enough to solve your problem. It is defeat.

Surrender is different. Rather than giving up, you’re giving over; ceding control of the situation to whatever power you are most comfortable with—God, time, the elements, the universe.

Surrender is about believing that not only is there an answer to the problem, but also you are capable of delivering that answer—just not without help.

We all know what giving up looks like. It’s turning off the laptop with a frown, and maybe a sigh with drooping shoulders. And almost always, it comes with a fear or reluctance to turn the computer back on.

Surrender is calmly closing the laptop of letting it go idle while you take a walk, read a book or vegetate in a coffee shop. It can even including reviewing your work-to-date if you focus on what’s working, what you’re happy with.

The answer is there for you to pluck, but it’s waiting for you to drop your focus. Like that white spot on the inside of your eyelid that moves every time you try to look at it, the answer doesn’t like your stare, so it hangs in the periphery.

That may actually be source of some of your frustration: the knowledge or sense that the answer’s nearby, but you can’t see it.

Don’t give up. You can do it.

You just need to have faith in your universe and surrender the control you never really had.

Traveller

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Cloud shadows slink among verdant hills

As winged scorpions speckle the air.

The modest murmur of breeze and wave

Is punctuated by staccato calls

Of feathered sentries, alarumed

By movements both broad and subtle.

A sudden stillness hijacks all,

Water rent astride by bow and oar.

A lone traveller, immune to life,

Slices the water in a multihued dugout;

Eye set on the horizon, oblivious

To anguished muscles and sinews,

Passing through the natural world

And yet so much a part of it.

Eddies left behind are enveloped

Quickly by unseen currents;

And all that was before

Is as it was again; peaceful, silent.

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Spirits of Ancient Mexico

As a child (and still as an adult), I have always been fascinated by history, so the thought of visiting one of the great sites of human civilization–the ruins of Chichin Itza and Xel Ha in Mexico–while on vacation just over a year ago, blew me away.

Although magnificent, what struck me was how small and human they seemed. It was as though these ancient cultures were ruled by giants, and yet, as close as I was allowed to approach, I was met with steps that would not be challenging for a short-statured adult.

I remain in awe of who these people were and what they accomplished, but having visited their cultural centres, I must admit that I came back a little disappointed. They were as you and me, and for whatever reason, that has dulled their sheen in the wondering eyes of the young boy I was.