Have you ever looked at something beautiful, such as a piece of art, a bolt of fabric, a birthday card, and said, "How did they come up with that?!"
I do it all the time. I could happily spend hours wandering through the fabric store, dissecting each design, marveling that some surface designer out there thought to create this pattern. These fabrics are what started me on my creative journey in the first place. I just wanted to play with the pretty fabric!
Eventually I wanted to design my own fabrics, paint my own pictures. If you spend enough time admiring other people's work, there is a good chance you'll end up wanting to create your own designs as well. But where to start? Where does this inspiration come from?
When was the last time you felt truly good and awe-inspired? It's super easy to get caught up in the drudgery of work, commute, laundry, dishes, diapers. Sometimes I'll pop out of my own head for a second and think, "Crap. What even happened this week?"
I hope that it hasn't been too long since you experienced "awe." If it has, it might be time to try to get out of your own head, even if only for a few minutes a day. It could be good for your health, and will definitely benefit your creativity.
Scientific American posted findings from a study on the benefits of experiencing awe. The study suggested that experiencing awe may be good for a person's mental health, and maybe even their physical health. The study points out that those who feel less stress may be more capable of experiencing awe. And that's why we have to make a conscious effort to step out of our brains and look at the world around us.
Of course, certain places and things may inspire awe more easily than others. The Grand Canyon, for example, is a pretty big producer of "awe." The beach always gives me that burst of awe that I crave.
But most people don't get to visit these places very often, if at all. Work happens, financial responsibilities happen, children's extracurricular activities happen. Relying on these grand places to get your fix of awe will not happen often enough to keep you inspired. And so you have to find inspiration in your daily life. You have to seek out that sense of awe.
And it's there! It's right outside your window. Sometimes it's inside your house. It's there whether the sun is shining or the moon is out, whether it's warm or whether the street is covered in dirt-colored slush. There is something beautiful there to admire and study, and that's where you'll find your awe.
I woke up early on my birthday, hoping for a sunshine and birds. Instead I saw an early morning gray sky and, even though I hadn't put on my glasses yet, snow falling and blowing around. It looked bitterly cold outside; I wasn't even sure if I should bother getting out of bed.
But I did, and as I made my morning tea I noticed that the snow wasn't your run-of-the-mill snow. It was huge. These flakes were the size of a quarter, super puffy and falling from the sky like stuffing out of a teddy bear. I was barefoot in my robe, but I stepped out onto the patio and watched. And listened.
At first I heard nothing. The wind had quit blowing, and the snow was being shaken out of the clouds. Soon I heard birds. They were the same birds that are in the meadows in the summer and spring. They have a really unique call that sounds warm, and though I couldn't see them, I know they are the black birds with the bright ruby red spots on their wings.
Then I heard the flakes landing on each other. It was barely there, maybe I made it up, but I swear they said "fuff" when they landed.
I looked straight up and watched them fall, coming right at my eyes and then moving away at the last second. I realized that they weren't one giant flake, but lots of little normal flakes, holding hands and jumping together.
After a few minutes I got pretty cold, so I came back in and sipped my tea and watched the snow until it was time to get dressed and be a grownup again.
It wasn't actually anything special. I didn't go on some epic hike or jump out of an airplane or anything cool like that. I was just standing outside in my bathrobe like a dork.
But the awe was there, right in the backyard. I felt it. And it set the tone for the whole rest of the day.
I was chipper, productive, cracking jokes and not caring that they were terrible, feeling completely at ease and comfortable in my skin. I got a lot done that day, without feeling stressed about it. It was a fantastic day.
Children do this everyday, and that is one of the reasons that I love spending time with my nieces and nephews. As we get older, things become less interesting and mysterious, so we pay less attention. With kids, everything is new and amazing.
I remember one time when I was visiting with family in Memphis, and we were eating dinner on the back deck. It was getting dark out, and my then (very vocal) one-and-a-half year old nephew was getting nervous. He kept saying that we needed to go inside because it was getting dark.
After explaining that there was nothing to be afraid of, he agreed to wander out into the backyard a little bit with me, to check on his toy dump truck. As we were walking ("into the darkness" as he said) he looked up at the sky and stopped, totally blown away by the stars.
Then he suddenly heard the crickets, and that was this whole new, amazing thing to him. He was chatting about the stars and the darkness and the crickets throughout the next day.
We can learn a lot from kids, including how to be inspired.
For five minutes, pretend to be a carefree child. Focus on something that you might not normally pay any attention. Those moments are when the awe will hit you, and maybe you'll be inspired to draw or paint what you saw, or maybe write about it.
I am trying to make that a regular thing, to actually see what's around me. It feels pretty darn good to take just a few minutes and observe the world.