When I was in graduate school, I was expected to KNOW THE LITERATURE. But what I began to notice, was that slogging through reams of other people’s stuff felt dead to me. After all, I was slogging through it with the only purpose of trying to stick names and articles in my brain somewhere. It was somewhat mechanical. But when I allowed myself to be lighthearted and read something fun (a children’s story, a magazine article on some quirky topic), my inspiration (and voice) would return. I think my dissertation was ultimately much better because of it.
Academia has probably changed a lot since I was in graduate school. At least, people probably don’t spend so many hours in the library, because there is so much research that can be done on the internet from your home computer. But I still find that the same principle applies: I don’t want to read other people’s blogs or writings on creative process. I want to stay inspired, and it feels too heavy to “hafta” read other people’s writings “i-n m-y f-i-e-l-d.” My mind starts getting involved and I compare myself. The “shoulds” creep in…”I should be doing what this person’s doing.” Whatever. But I DO read blogs.
My secret passion is clothing design (you wouldn’t know that from what I wear on a daily basis.) I LOVE Project Runway–the reality tv show where aspiring designers compete with one another to make something stunning (and they’re given about a day to do it). About half the challenges involve using unusual things–like items from a grocery store, or a trash recycling center, or whatever materials they can cut out from the inside of a car. The quirkier the materials, the more fascinated I am. On the first season, designer Austin Scarlett made a beautiful dress from nothing but corn stalks. Take a look:
(Austin’s dress looked much better before the corn stalks dried up…) In any case, my secret inspirational blog is also about weird runway fashion. It’s called The Swelle Life, and the woman behind it can really write (she’s witty). But more than that, she provides runway photos that give me endless sources of amusement, smiles and . . . inspiration. (These aren’t the weirdest ones, they’re just today’s faves….)
If the most important thing is my own creative process (and that IS the most important thing to me), then I need to pay close attention to what inspires me, and close attention to what dispirits me (by the way, Merriam-Webster’s definition of dispirit is: to deprive of morale or enthusiasm.) Wacky stuff made into clothes that odd-looking women march down a runway seems to keep me feeling light, happy, and inspired.
So all this is to encourage us to embrace our secret inspirations. Unless you’re in graduate school and “hafta” know the literature, let your own secret passions feed you. It’s all hooked up together in there somehow.