Category Archives: Inspiration

Inspiration in the Stillness

This month I’ve been looking at who and what inspires me.  For some, inspiration enriches the soul, helps us to appreciate the world we live in just a little more.  For others, inspiration drives us to recreate or, as Tolkien called it, sub-creation.  The beautiful sunset, the rain streaking down the window obscuring the woods, the bright colors of spring reflected in the varied outfits of the busy passers by on the city street, the long road lined with red-buds and blooming trees – they inspire us to paint, sculpt, draw, write, or read. In my last post I called these the wild places that compel me to be something more and make me aspire to tell stories. But often I am too busy, too noisy to appreciate these things.

Inspiration breaths in the quiet moments, when we are still.

I am reminded of Psalms 46:10″Be still, and know that I am God.”

If we acknowledge the truth of what Tolkien wrote about the art of sub-creation- we can only create because God has created us and we enjoy creation only because of Him – then we cannot truly sub-create without acknowledging the creator.  Imagination becomes an imitation of the act of creation.

Be still.

Take a moment and enjoy creation.  Be inspired.  Do not let the business of life detract from the enjoy the world we live in, from finding inspiration in the wild places, the books we read, and the people we know.

Be still and know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Be inspired in the stillness of a quiet moment, of a gentle breeze.

Wordy Wisdom: Why We Love Our Living Language

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been pretty harsh about words these last few weeks, and that’s not fair at all.  Words are wonderful.  Words are magical.  Words allow us to craft our thoughts, just so, and lead our readers on a path of thought, adventure, whimsy.  Finely crafted words invite us to trespass into other worlds for as long as our eyes are captured by the pages.

Let’s be honest.  We love words!

(Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog… )

So, enough of the lambasting of the poor unworthy adjectives and the literal things that aren’t literally literal (… actually, no, I’ll never give up in my fight against poorly used “literally”).  Let’s focus instead on well-crafted and well-used words.

First of all, after how twitchy Twain made us about those pesky adjectives and poorly placed adverbs, I think we need to call him out on how little credit he is giving to beautiful writing.   When I think of descriptive passages and the images they summon to the imagination, I think of George MacDonald’s Phantastes:

“The trees bathed their great heads in the waves of the morning, while their roots were planted deep in gloom; save where on the borders of the sunshine broke against their stems, or swept in long streams through their avenues, washing with brighter hue all the leaves over which it flowed; revealing the rich brown of the decayed leaves and fallen pine-cones, and the delicate greens of the long grasses and tiny forests of moss that covered the channel over which it passed in the motionless rivers of light.”

What I see.  What do you see?

What I see. What do you see?

 

Now, maybe we are all seeing different trees bathed in different light, different leaves and different moss. Does it matter?  Does it make the image that this passage conjures for each of us any less lovely?  Adjectives can easily become trite, meaningless, and overdone.  An adverb is more often excessive than a necessity.  However, in the right place at the right time, we can use words to transform a wisp of an idea into an image that is almost tangible, and there is something eminently satisfying in the product.

Furthermore, as readers, we have the privilege more often than we realize to appreciate the wordsmithing of others, their images and ideas unfolding before us.  We make the images our own and so both share them with their creator and adopt them into our own library of treasured thoughts and stories.  This is the constant and endless delight of the reader, an abundance of words transformed into an infinite store of impressions.

The wonderful thing about words is that, while we do submit to their meanings on the one hand and allow them to create a picture for us when we approach them, we are on the other hand and in another way their masters.  We are the creators of the words themselves and we are allotted some of the responsibility of giving them meaning.

Sometimes this goes horridly awry, and more than one stuffy wordophile (I don’t exclude myself from this category, by any means) turns a nose up at such travesties as ain’t and irregardless and… you were waiting for this one… literally.  Words that aren’t words or shouldn’t be words or aren’t being used the way they should be used – we gaze in most respectable and erudite horror upon these little gremlins of our language and try (uselessly, alas) to squish them the way Twain squishes adverbs.  Of course, he didn’t have very much success either (Do you see those adverbs I just used, Twain?  And I’m not even sorry).

But there are two things that we must remember, no matter how stuffy we are or how much we love to preserve our sacred, lovely, beautiful vocabulary just as it is.

First, for a language to be alive, it must be allowed to grow, change, and flourish.  Now, I do still firmly believe that trimming little, rogue branches is in the tree of la langue‘s best interests.  We should definitely discourage the words that are senseless and correct mistakes as they come our way (in the nicest way possible so that our friends don’t start apologizing every time they write anything they know we’ll see… Not that this ever happens to me).   However, aside from the words that just plain shouldn’t be allowed, there are new words and new meanings that are always springing up, and I think that we might approach these with more fascination and excitement than gloomy discouragement.  Our language is still alive!  It is growing!  Our culture, one generation after another, is exploring and creating and inventing new words and new meanings as our world continues to change.

And some words are just fun to say, aren't they?

And some words are just fun to say, aren’t they?

 

Take for example a word that is quite appropriate for this post: text.  A word that means words, born of the idea of a substance, like textiles, something you can touch and feel and hold in your hand.  Something solid.  In our technological age, text has changed.  We might become a bit nostalgic about it, but we might also see the magic in it.  Text has grown and expanded, still attached to the page, but also floating off of and away from it, a collection of thoughts sent invisibly (magically, as far as I’m concerned) from one device to another.  It’s not just a thing anymore.  It’s an action.  I can text someone.  Let’s set aside the usual bemoaning of what the digital age has done to our youth’s perspective of the written word (a worthy subject for another day) and just contemplate how many ideas are being sent in all directions all the time.  Because text has changed.

The second thing that we must remember about words is that we are not passive onlookers.  We are a part of our culture’s language, and we participate in its lively evolution.  Words don’t magically appear; someone starts the process.  Shakespeare is responsible for the use of a massive number of words in the English language.  We can go into a zany rant about a bedazzled arch-villain because Shakespeare was awesome and creative (short story idea, just in case someone wants it).  We chortle and gallumph because Lewis Carroll wrote nonsense that just might make sense.  Words are fun, and while I sometimes like to say that only Masters of English should be allowed the privilege of adding to our vocabulary (I told you I was a stuffy elitist), the fact is, if you write it, text it, say it, or share it, and someone else loves it and passes it on, a new word or meaning can very easily be born.

So to end this month’s long-winded, wordy exploration of reading, writing, and the words we use, I want to know what you think of words.  What is your favorite word to say?  What word do you love for its meaning, origins, or impact?  What fabulous word do you think should be added to our vocabulary?  Maybe we can spread a new one and make our language grow a little more (something to replace literally as an intensifying adverb, perhaps?  Please, I beg of you!)

* * *

Previous Bits of Wordy Wisdom:

Too Much of a Good Thing

Very, Very Verbose

I Literally Died!

Inspiration: In the Wild Places

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

When I was a child I longed for the Road that would take me anywhere but where I was.  I longed for wardrobes, and magic paintings, for castles in the sky, and lost cities in the ocean. I found myself hunting for faerie rings and dragon’s eggs.  To no avail. But it never stopped me from dreaming.

In the wild places – in the creek half hidden in snow, the purple mountains rising up into the pink sky of a spring sunset, the fog sprawling through a valley, the clear night with the bright silver moon and the cold wind howling, the bend on the dark road – there is mystery and fantasy.  There is that hope of the unknown and the adventure of letting your feet or your mind take you there.cute dragonb

There are dragons hidden in the hills
There are nymphs laughing in the brooks
There are faeries dancing in the glens
There are knights defeating evil enchantments
There are lady heroes fighting the enemy hordes
There are boys finding courage to draw swords from stones
There are girls discovering the magic of words
There are cats hunting fey creatures
There are roads untraveled, lands unexplored
There are words yet to be written
There is inspiration in the wild places.

Inspiration: “This Book Was Never A Blog”*

I generally don’t read nonfiction.  It is not that I find it boring (though I’ll be honest, I used to), I just don’t have as much time to read as I once did and when I have time to read I want to be entertained. I want fantasy and escapism. (Does this make me a shallow person?  I hope not.)

Anyway, I had a delightful moment while shopping at Christmas where I was just browsing the books at a local B&N waiting for other people to finish their shopping, and I came across a book that looked interesting.  I picked it up and started reading.  I was laughing before I knew it. I turned to my sister because I had to share the awesomeness that I had just discovered, and she turned to me as well, desperately wanting to share the awesomeness that she had just discovered, and we showed each other the same book. Yes!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and other concerns picture curtsy of goodreads.com

Picture courtesy of goodreads.com

It was Mindy Kaling’s new book:  Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? and other concerns.

As a good sister, I bought the book for my sister for Christmas.  She returned the favor by allowing me to borrow said book.

I’ve been enjoying Mindy’s quips as much as I did that day in B&N. She is naturally witty and is full of hilarious anecdotes about her attempts at success. Since she has a New York Times Bestseller book, it is obvious that she has achieved success, and she has some delightful insights into that as well.

But what struck me was her attitude about failure and her eventual success.  She was inspiring through her failings, through her bad luck, and her accidental achievement.  She worked hard, lived in the scarier parts of town, but always maintained her confidence.  I suffer from discouragement. Since I write by inspiration, I become melancholy when things don’t go my way. But even in her lonely times, Mindy knew her talent, knew her goals, and knew where she wanted to be.  She worked long hours, hard hours, fought with her co-workers as she strove for excellence in her writing.  She was honing her skills.

Honing one’s talent is difficult. We’ve met those people who can play sports or are whizzes at math, or who can read a book in a day. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to work to actually succeed.  Pro athletes, for all the grief we give them about not actually working, still have to train, in and out of season. They cannot sit on the couch and eat Doritos. Like the athlete who works out everyday, the writer must write everyday.

Mindy and her roommate/best friend spent hours writing together, rehearsing comedy sketches and talking about their craft. I must say having a cheerleader or friendly critic is one of the best ways to start honing your craft.  Here at LHP, we are each other’s cheerleaders and critics.  We read each other’s stories, we edit them, we share our ideas and harass the slackers. But it all started out of our friend’s living room.  Every other Friday night we’d get together and read sections from stuff we were/are working on. For me it was the first time I shared my writing with anyone.  It was scary.  That first story was terrible. I got better, as my friends challenged me and took what I had and encouraged me to make it better.

Happy Writing!  Happy Reading!

*An alternate title to Mindy Kaling’s book.  She has a marvelous list.  Somehow it seemed to work here.

Pinterest: Where Inspiration is Born and Dies

I have a twitch in my right hand index finger and a slight numbing in my wrist.  This is not because I’ve been faithfully slaving away on my novel(s) or short stories or even this blog.  No, it is from the hours I have spent scrolling through the endless memes, outfits for every day and every occasion, and the scary yet funny geek pins.  There are so many things and thingies that must be viewed and pinned.

I was showing my mom how Pinterest works and I took her to look at my boards.  “Mom, you can organize thingies by categories. Here are a few.”

I gulped. A few?

“You have 35 boards!”

“Thanks mom for pointing that out.  But look, they are organized! Unlike my room or anything else in my life.”

Suddenly I have OCD. I want to organize everything or rather every pin. I don’t want to mix my like for the Avengers with my love for Doctor Who or my need to feed people breakfast ideas with my visions of crafting things.  They need homes; they need their own boards for me to collect all the thingies that are associated with those thingies.

My imagination lights up as I look at beautiful fan art for Studio Ghibli, some of it is really good – some of it is disturbing. I have re-imagined the possibilities of what I could do with my wardrobe. How I can make Disney themed outfits with what I already own. I have a board dedicated to the most beautiful colors in the world blues and greens and all the shades in between. I have a collection of picturesque scenes of winter, a montage of sheep and sheep related thingies, and an assemblage of homages to my love for books and words.

I have a pinning problem. 

Not only is Pinterest the prefect place to store links to all those DIY projects and 30 meals on the go for $5 or less, it is where inspiration is born and eventually dies.

Dies?

Yes, my friends, inspiration dies….all those beautiful ideas, DIYs, places to see, books to read, dresses to wear, food to bake, cook and eat…what happens to them?  What?

Nothing.

They sit there in their neatly pinned, slightly organized boards full of hope and good intentions, like the clean laundry in the laundry basket, waiting to be used or remembered.  I am always surprised by the concepts and solutions I find but I never do anything with them. Or I do, do something with them…have you seen the Pinterest Fails?

I think that sums that up clearly.

But you don’t have to be one of those people…

What do all the great writers, DIYers, movie makers, bakers, and crafty people all have in common?  They DO!  They don’t let the inspiration die.  They create the boards and pin the things but then they act upon them.  They don’t let apathy, over-pinning, or distractions get in their way of actually completing the task.  So don’t let the inspiration in your Pinterest boards die on your Pinterest boards!

Happy Pinning!  Happy Doing!  Happy Inspiration!