Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday's Reflection: Where Do I Get My Ideas?

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. 
                                                Joan Didion

When people learn I write a blog, they often ask "Where do you get your ideas?" I am always a bit stunned by the question, because ideas are not the problem. Making time, taking time to write is much more of a problem for me. 

Ideas are scrawled on little scraps of paper in the car, and notebooks of all sizes are filled with pages of writing ideas. My journal overflows with drafts for further development, and now I even use my iPhone for noting something I heard or saw that sparks a thought within me. Ideas are NOT the problem.

I do appreciate the question, however, and it deserves a reflective answer.  Where do the ideas come from? 

The Writing Life
When I started keeping journals in a regular, ongoing way almost 40 years ago, Christina Baldwin, who has written brilliantly about journal writing, said to my burgeoning journal writing group, "The more you write, the more you find to write about and the more you find to write about, the more you write." 

How true that is! Writing requires living fully--being with family and friends and enjoying a diversity of activities and interactions, as well as time to do all the "stuff" of life. Just as important are gathering days, percolating days as ways to open to and relax in the possibility of new ideas and stimulation. Julia Cameron in her classic The Artist's Way calls these days Artist's Dates. 

Perhaps you are one of the many who are declaring days of the week or hours of the day as times of non-connection  meaning turning off the cell phone, staying away from all your tech devices. Those are times to let your mind and soul breathe, a kind of breathing essential to my writing life; times when ideas flow and develop and grow and then magically come to fruition the next time I sit down to write. In reality, those may be times of greatest connection, cosmic connection. 

Paradox and Gratitude
Being a writer is not without its paradox. How do I stay fully engaged with life and the life around me and at the same time be the listener, the observer, that opens my mind and spirit to ideas, which I translate into my writing?  Often I say in the midst of a conversation or activity, "I feel a blog post coming on," and in that moment I have removed myself from the present moment. Instead, I start thinking about what I am going to write. 

Trust enters this paradox. The need to trust that if my focus is  staying awake and bringing my full self into the moment, when the time comes to bring my full self to the writing, the ideas will be there. That is the moment when I feel immense gratitude, and each writing session becomes a way to give thanks.

I am often surprised, however, when I sit down to write by what idea comes to the forefront. I often think I am going to write about x and have been thinking about how to develop that idea and what resources I have in my library to support and expand that idea. When the time comes, I sit quietly at my desk and close my eyes before picking up a pen or opening the "new post" section of my blog. I breathe a deep cleansing breath and ask that my writing partner, Creator God, be with me. Sometimes something entirely different rises to the top and demands attention. It is in that moment when I feel fully awake and when my True Self feels alive.  

The Practice of Being Awake
Writing, and in particular writing this blog, is a spiritual practice and as with any spiritual practice, I need to be awake in order to bring myself to the practice. And not just awake when I sit at my desk in front of my laptop and declare the next hour or two as writing time, but all the time--as much time as possible. 

And not just caffeine awake either. 

The ultimate spiritual practice is being awake. 
Being aware. 
Being mindful. 
Being in the present. 

Listening with the eyes of my heart. 

When I am awake, so much more can enter into my being, and I become aware of Presence, which enriches and draws me further into specific practices. For me that is writing, but also meditation and prayer and study. And sitting in spiritual direction with a directee. For you that might be gardening or doing yoga or painting or working at a food shelter. 

I desire that kind of alert attention for every aspect of my life.

My intention is for my life to be one of spiritual practice. 

That's where I get my ideas. 

An Invitation
If you live a creative life, where do your ideas come from? In what ways is your creativity a form of spiritual practice? What are your intentions for living a creative life? A spiritual life?
I would love your comments about staying awake to your whole life.

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