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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Widdowson

Be Inspired

Updated: Mar 3

Photo by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay, sparkling lightbulb

Writing is not my only hobby. There are a lot of other things I enjoy doing, like journaling, reading, playing piano, calligraphy, learning to write left-handed, and art. I’ve always loved to draw and paint and over the years, I’ve taken a lot of art lessons to explore different mediums such as oil painting, acrylics, pastels, watercolors and drawing. I love creating with new tools and using different techniques to learn which work best for me.

It will probably come as no surprise that when I paint, I love using bold colors. In case you’re curious, you can see some examples of my paintings at my artist website. In one of those courses, the teacher had the class do an exercise for homework that she said would help to expand our ability to see color wherever we looked. Then we could use that new color knowledge when we painted our next picture.

The homework was simple. Whenever we saw something that looked like it was a single color, say a blue sky or a gray road, for example, she told us to stop and take the time to really look at it. To study it. She promised that if we did that, if we slowed down and really paid attention, we would begin to see all the other colors that made up that single color.

And she was right. One of the places it became very obvious to me was looking at a gray street. So often that’s all we see when we look at a road—dark gray macadam, or light gray concrete. But it’s amazing how many colors are in those roads. Not only are there various colors of gray, blue, red and many other shades and hues within the material itself, but there are often reflections of the colors that are around and on the road—the grass on either side, or the light reflecting off a passing car. This is even more obvious if it’s been raining or if there’s a puddle in the road. But usually we see only the gray. We’re thinking about where we’re going, listening to a news broadcast or a song on the radio, talking to a passenger, or, hopefully, paying attention to where we’re going if we’re driving!

There are colors everywhere. A lot of them! All we need to do is pay attention. I think a lot of us fall into the trap of not living in the moment. Of thinking about where we've been or where we’re going. Of living in the past or the future rather than in the present. But if we don’t live in the moment, it’s very difficult to notice things that are happening right now, probably right in front of us. We may be missing some very important details of our lives. It’s hard to be inspired if we’re not paying attention and when something inspiring happens!

I have a little book I carry around with me in my purse that I use to write down ideas when they come to me—inspirations that hit me when I least expect them. And almost always, those flashes of creativity occur when something happens and I notice. I can’t recall a single time when an idea struck me when I was dwelling on a past event or worrying about something coming up in the future. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that daydreaming doesn’t give you ideas. When you daydream, you’re using your imagination. Usually when you’re focusing on the past or thinking about the future, you’re worrying. Both take you out of the moment, but only daydreaming is likely to result in a spark of imagination—an idea you might be able to use in a current or future project, whether that be an art piece you’re painting or a novel you’re writing.

When I was a kid, I got inspired all the time. Do you remember what it was like when everything was new to you? When almost everything you did was an adventure? Everything made us wonder. We noticed everything! But then we grew up. Days blended together. Nothing seemed new or different anymore. We’d seen everything. Been there-done that. Sure, if you travel to a new country, go on a cruise, take a vacation, you see new things. But what about your day-to-day life? It’s so easy to feel like our lives are predictable and boring—like there’s nothing new to be experienced or inspired about.

But there is! We just have to be mindful. To be observant. To let ourselves fully experience things. There was a diet book that became very popular in the early 2000s. It was the Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution. It was a low-carb, high-protein diet. I read a lot of that book, because mistakenly, I thought I needed to lose some weight. I had never been on a diet before and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t end up going on the diet, but he did have some advice that I liked. In the book, he described one of his workshops, and in the very first class, he gave everyone a raisin and asked them to use their five senses to eat it. He didn’t want them to just pop it in their mouth, chew for a couple of seconds and then swallow.

First, they had to hold the raisin. To feel its valleys and textures with their fingertips. Next, they had to look at it, to really examine it. To see its colors, its shiny surface, and dark hollows. The next step was to smell it. Then taste it. They had to savor the raisin. To get to know the intensity of its sweetness, the granularity of its texture and the earthy fruit flavor before they swallowed it. He wanted them to fully experience the raisin.

Dr. Atkins did not invent this raisin-eating exercise. It’s generally attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the University of Massachusetts. To learn more about it, read these directions, and give it a try! The point of the exercise is to be mindful about what you’re doing, and this process can be used to help you more fully experience many things in life.

But let’s be real here. It’s very difficult to be mindful all the time. We have a lot of things to do every day. We can’t experience everything fully all the time. But the good news is, you don’t have to. A little bit of mindfulness can go a long way and result in some very inspiring moments! And you don’t have to be a writer or a painter for inspiration to be meaningful. I can’t think of many jobs or activities in life where it wouldn’t be helpful. Even if the ah-hah moment simply helps you to be inspired about life again when you feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job. 

Motivation in writing is essential to keep a writer excited about moving their story forward. It’s especially helpful if they're stuck in a period of writer’s block. And getting inspired doesn’t require some big adventure. It’s often just a matter of being aware of what’s going on around you and allowing yourself to fully experience it. You don’t have to be a writer to need inspiration. If you find yourself unhappy with your life or your current situation, slow down, take a moment, and allow yourself to truly feel and appreciate one thing in your life. Be in the moment, and let yourself be inspired!

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1 Comment

Feb 20

Thanks for the reminder to stop and experience the moment! So many opportunities every day ….

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