“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” (Jack London)
Wrapped in the cocoon of my home, safe within the walls, staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer is comfortable, but it will not inspire me. It is only when I am out, physically and mentally, from the comfort of my home, that I find inspiration in my life.
For me, being inspired means that I have seen, heard or felt something that has made me want to do something that I haven’t done before, or haven’t done in a long time. To be inspired, I have to be observant and open. I have to see what is around me, and I have to be open to the possibility of change.
For years I walked the halls at work to go to and from the bathroom, meetings, coffee breaks, and lunch. I would see people in pairs or threes walking with a purpose. They weren’t carrying the tools of a meeting with them, nor were they taking the casual coffee or lunch stroll. Sometimes, if I was in the hall for a little longer period, I would see them twice. These people were taking laps at work, they were doing something to make themselves just a little healthier. Was I inspired by what I saw? Hardly! I might view them with some amusement, or even be slightly annoyed when they overtook me on their path, but inspired was not a word that came to mind. To be inspired by them, I first had to open my eyes to the possibility of being more healthy myself. Then it was just a matter of being out there with them.
I have been to scores of lighthouses, hiked beautiful trails in Michigan and Ohio, and have seen the majesty of nature and the struggle of humankind to make our way through. As a child and young adult, I camped countless nights with Scouting groups and others. I stayed up with a blanket of stars overhead, and awoke to the sounds of birds chirping in trees so close I thought they were in my tent. On these hikes and adventures I have been inspired. Sometimes to read more, sometimes to write, sometimes just to be out deeper into nature. I was open, and inspiration flowed in.
Since I was in my 20s I have thought about someday writing a book. I knew I had the basic skills to write, and that with some practice I might be able to write something that could be published, but I lacked for a topic that could sustain the length of a book. It wasn’t until I decided to just start writing that I realized that the inspiration to write surrounded me. Today I think not in terms of finding a single topic to write about, but rather I think about how I can limit myself to a theme (or two or three), so that my writing doesn’t take on a Faulkner-like stream of consciousness.
I don’t know if I need Jack London’s club to find inspiration, but I do know that my mind has to be open to it, and I have to be out and about. I cannot be truly inspired by being in the shell of my own, personal existence.
One might wonder why inspiration is important to me. The answer lies in knowing what drives me, and what makes me happy. In my life I have always been happiest when I have been on an adventure. Whether that adventure was the car ride in the country, the search for outhouses, trying to conquer a home improvement project, or solving difficult problems at work, it is the adventure that has driven me. I may become temporarily frustrated with the problems along the way, but the adventure is what has made it worthwhile.
These days I find myself inspired by many things, and I try to work them into these daily reflections. And, more importantly than just finding inspiration, I am allowing it to subtly change me. Right now, life is an amazing adventure, and I am enjoying the ride.