I began this week drawing inspiration from Queen Elizabeth in Words for this Monday using her words to help provide context to my feelings. After this week, it should only be fitting that I use my own words to wrap up this progress and explain where and how I find my inspiration, other than good ‘ol Lizzy of course.
When I was in high school I had the good fortune of participating in a mentorship program through a well respected theatre company in Toronto. Over the duration of the summer we wrote and rehearsed a show centred on the theme of “space” (last week’s posting wasn’t the first time I had dealt with this matter), and throughout that period, as we writing and crafting we were told to dig deep for our inspiration. Digging deep requires a certain awareness of your current state; to get further you need to know where you began, which is why I love this expression because there’s accountability and agency involved. This “digging deep” philosophy served me well and throughout my academic career I found that the deeper I dug, the more personal the experience, the more the work resonated with my audience. In most circumstances, the human connection is what draws us in and keeps us there. For an unknown reason however, somewhere along the way I forgot this message and when I began writing this blog I thought I would try and keep things professional – we’ll only talk about this topic and this topic alone. This idea didn’t work and if you look through my archives there isn’t a single post or word I’ve written that doesn’t stem from my experience. I’m not suggesting that I have a particularly inspirational or aspirational story; I’m not living in a castle dripping in diamonds and my life doesn’t look like a magazine shoot or Pinterest board, but I do have a fortunate life and I have enough awareness to realize this fact. So in terms of inspiration, well my experience is my primary source.
Then of course there are all the other more conventional resources of inspiration like books, papers, think pieces, op-eds in the New York Times, and stories from the New Yorker – you know the things that you first pick up hoping it’ll make you look smarter and then after awhile you realize, “hey I’m actually enjoying this.” I read a lot – something I got from my mom, who can sit for hours at a time, day after day reading, thinking, and most importantly questioning. My library is mostly comprised of fiction but periodically non-fiction including memoirs and self-help books find their way in there too. I love the tried and true English classics, which admittedly is largely represented by white, male authors but my liking them doesn’t detract from my search for different and diverse voices either. In more contemporary literature, I tend to favour female and mostly British authors for some unknown reason: JK Rowling because as a child she taught me how to dream and the value of being your true self; Zadie Smith for her ability to capture contemporary life reflecting both its difficulty and beauty; Diana Evans and the one novel I’ve read from her –26A – that still haunts me; and then my singular non-British favourite, Leanne Shapton who is both a talented author and illustrated and grew up in my hometown because everything she creates, she creates with simplicity, elegance, and grace. There are the celebrity actors turned writers that I admire – Aziz Ansari (if you haven’t seen Master of None on Netflix, go watch it!) and Mindy Kaling are my current favourites – because many of them have worked hard to achieve what they have and even if I don’t agree with everything they say, their experience broadens my understanding of this world.
And finally, another significant source of inspiration for me is social media, which I know might make me sound vapid because it sometimes gets a bad wrap. However, I don’t believe that there is anything inherently good or bad about social media – it’s just a tool to be used and it is up to the user to interpret and adapt its functions to make it meaningful. Personally, I don’t plan my life around what I can post on social media, which has been known to happen and my intention isn’t to show off the things I have or what I’m doing. Instead, social media for me, presents the opportunity to connect with other like minded people. Through my social media platforms including this blog I’ve met interesting people and developed connections with them, learned about stories I wouldn’t otherwise know, and honestly, I draw a lot of inspiration from it. Sorry if that makes me a plebeian but that’s the truth.
What about you? What inspires you to write?