Creatives wander like zombies, mean zombies, when they lose their inspiration. The Muse gone missing is similar to being left by a lover. You were leaving each other love notes just the day before and you wake up and there’s no breakfast, no kissy face, no note of explanation. Who you gonna call?
What exactly, are creative friends to do for one another when their art collapses like a punctured lung and they find it increasingly hard to breathe? Hopefully, we know CPR (creative pulmonary resuscitation) enough to inspire when we feel blocked, stymied, stuck, are short of sacred breath. Whether you work alone or collaborate, the friends we choose to be part of our life experience are the ones we will turn to in our despair or discouragement, and who will turn to us, as well, to be uplifted and reinvigorated.
Miriam-Webster defines inspiration as: 1) a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify them to receive and communicate sacred revelation. 2) The act of drawing in; specifically the drawing of air into the lungs. Breathing. In other words, inspiration is creative respiration which can come from some divine entity, from our surroundings, or (most likely) from a creative friend or teacher who believes in our purposes and intentions to also create.
I call my friend, Trudy, “Hey, I’m so depressed. The VA screwed me over again. All I can do is smoke cigarettes and pace.” And she says, “What are you writing? When is your next blog post? I’m waiting.” Jane calls me.”Damn it, I broke my arm, My right arm, the one I PAINT with. How will I do my drawing a day?” And I say, “What about trying to draw left-handed?” The answer could be, “Screw you!” if she hasn’t taken a pain pill, but she’ll think it over, give it a try, and call you back with a thank you. My best buddy and I share this one. “The gal left me. Again.” The short answer is, “Maybe we should write a song about that…”
I am not belittling the gruesome losses we suffer in life. In fact, I seem to grow more familiar with the deadly kind as life goes along into my 6th decade. However, there has to be a way we can deal with these things together, and mostly in a productive, creative way–so we don’t end up sticking the knife in our ear instead of just pantomiming it. Lately, the news is heavy with artists killing themselves using overdoses or cars or bullets. All we hear about are the famous ones.
Think of how many fine writers, painters, potters, and poets commit suicide, if not physically then spiritually, everyday. Because they believe they aren’t good enough. Because they can’t make a living at it. Because nobody likes their work. Because they get stuck and forgot that they can get unstuck, too. Or simply because, for highly sensitive people, which many artists are, life simply and inexplicably sucks sometimes.
I frequently identify with other artists for whom their work is their life raft. When they grabbed hold of that rubber ducky, they were drowning. They dragged themselves painfully over the sides and named their lifeboat, Art. For these reasons perhaps, they are always willing to reach out a hand to other creatives in pain, flailing in the water, forgetting how to tread, and lift them in long enough for the newbie to learn how to paddle. We must remember though, not everybody we find swimming in the ocean of life will be a friend to us. Inspiration is mostly a reciprocal act. You don’t want to pull a shark into your lifeboat with you. It’s dangerous for you and hard on the boat. As your momma said, “Choose your friends wisely.”
In my next few posts, I will tell the story of a handful of people who most inspire me; not only through their art, but by their willingness to work under almost any circumstance. Some of them, like me, have clawed their way into an art raft from storm-tossed seas where we were truly drowning. Others may have resided in the boat all their lives, but instead of taking this good fortune for granted, they have lent a hand repeatedly to help lift others from the water, either by doing what they do with skill and determination, or with a sense of purpose that this is the true meaning of life and they want to share it.
Each person–Trudy, Jane, Lenny, and Malcolm–will have their own post. I will tell a bit of their story. Each of these people is a living inspiration to me because of where they’ve been as much as where they are now. They have lifted me up and set me afloat when I was floundering and I hope I have done the same for them. Through encouragement and collaboration, we have found a way to make our lives a work of art instead of simply making some art while we are alive. Both are good, but one is a life-saver.