“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.”
~Raymond Inmon (1920-1999)
Though widely quoted, I haven’t been able to find any info on Inmon — who he was, what was his art. But the advice itself is worth being remembered for. We’re all feeling a bit cooped up these days — the lovely walking trail above the river in my town, not far from these steps, is getting a heavy workout. There are scientific analyses of how shutting off the conscious mind and putting the large muscles into motion frees the subconscious mind to roam, making creative connections it might not have made while you sat at your desk. Let’s save those for another time.
Today, this week, lace up your walking shoes, find a spot where you can safely go, whether it’s a power walk or a gentle meander, and move.
“Before you can write anything, you have to notice something,” novelist John Irving said. And in these difficult times, when many of us are walking around — six feet apart — feeing as though a Band-Aid had been ripped off our entire body, leaving us raw and exposed, we wonder how we can create. Because the act of creativity requires some belief that what we do serves us and the world, that it answers questions about life and guides us forward. And right now, that belief isn’t easy.
So “since feeling is first,” in the words of the poet e.e. cummings, start there. Notice what you’re feeling. Just notice it. Don’t burden it with the obligation of action — not yet. When you’re ready, give that feeling to a character if you write. You don’t have to write about a pandemic; let the emotion tell you the story. Let it drive the character. Give the feeling a color or a shape if you paint, a sound if you sing or play, a movement if you dance. Let the feeling guide you.
“[L]ove what you do. If you don’t love it and find it all rather lonely because it is, find something else. Most of all, use what is already there. You cannot reinvent the conditions you are in, but these conditions are your fuel – anger, frustration, despair, revenge, love, silliness, need. and writing is your way to clarity, to understanding what is important. That is its power.