What Moves You?

This was a question frequently posed by my mentor, Anaïs Nin, and today I pose the question to you, my readers. During the past few weeks I have been in the midst of what could aptly be called a literary slump. Thankfully, my recent sojourn to Paris healed me. Many writers, both living and dead, have professed that you should write what you know—but I will take this thought one step further and suggest that you write what you are passionate about or what moves you. The energy of your passion will be enough to carry your creative energy across the page.

Beyond writing about what interests you, the question is: what do writers do when they simply cannot be ‘moved?’What do they do when their pen stalls on the page and words do not churn out as quickly as they would like?

The Poets & Writers website has a section called, “Writers Recommend,” which is a collection of interviews with writers whose work has previously appeared on their pages. In this section, writers discuss what inspires them and what they might do to stimulate their creative juices. I believe many of these suggestions apply to all creative persons. Many of the writers’ responses may seem obvious to my readers, but it is amusing, nevertheless, to see these ideas all lumped together. Below is a summary of the most interesting and helpful tips offered by these writers, some which have been used for centuries by artists and writers alike. My recent trip to Paris was a testament to their efficacy because I have returned to the U.S. with a heightened literary charge. In fact, during my week in Paris, I managed to fill up an entire leather journal, accompanied by jottings on my laptop of future article ideas.

Here’s a summary:

1)    Go to places that inspire you—whether it is a bookshop, local park or café

2)    Read the works of your favorite writers to stimulate or alter your own world

3)    Sit somewhere outside of your typical writing area

4)    Do something different to recharge your battery, like learning a new hobby or sport

5)    Drink coffee, sip alcohol or use other mood-altering vices… in moderation, of course

6)    Listen to music

In addition to this list, there are other things I personally do to stimulate my own creativity or to give me a literary boost. For example, I might visit my local bookstore or library, walk around and pick up a  book which interests me and skim through its pages. I might carefully study the Edward Hopper print on my writing studio wall, which depicts a woman reading her book in a moving train. Something about her demeanor and sense of calm stimulates my creativity. For some poetic inspiration, I might focus on one image or emotion for an extended period of time and this might percolate into a poem. Sometimes while traveling, (which I frequently do because all three of my children live on the east coast), I might write a poem on a hotel pad, in the same way that William Carlos Williams used to draft poetry on prescription pads between patients. Speaking of Williams, while in Paris, I visited one of the three or four English bookstores, The Red Wheelbarrow.

The Red Wheel Barrow

So much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chicken.

Et voila! Here’s to inspiration. Let me hear from you as to what you might do to get your own creative juices churning and if you found any of my tips useful.

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4 Responses to “What Moves You?”


  1. 1 Jim Alexander December 7, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    I have never been blocked. Probably because I very much believe in your theory:
    sip alcohol or use other mood-altering vices

  2. 2 hamdani December 8, 2009 at 7:44 am

    nice blog, and visit mine (http://thebest-notebook.com) thanks….

  3. 3 Satia December 8, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Although I find #5 anathema to my personal creativity, I rarely find it difficult to find inspiration. If anything, I have more ideas than I have time to explore them all.

    One thing I do, however, is honor the times of being fallow. I may always have another idea but I may not always be able to do anything at a particular time. There have been days, weeks, and even months where circumstances precluded my productivity. I could have resisted the situation, even resented the intrusion of “the real world” on my creative one. Instead, I acknowledge the place I am–whether productive or not. Inevitably, these times of fallow are followed by an explosion of creativity that is also a leap beyond where I was before.

    I also choose to confront any moments when I think I can’t. If I think something is too hard for me, that I am not creatively up to the challenge, then I know this is something I should explore. Whether it produces something I like is not the point. The commitment to occasionally moving beyond my creative comfort zone keeps me fruitful.

  4. 4 Jeannie December 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Change of scenery usually is my inspiration. Somehow our brains are recharged and we begin to see things in a different light. Afterwards, creativity arrives at the door knocking loudly to be admitted. I never knew that I could write poetry until I gave it a try. Thanks for inspiration.


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Quote of the Week


"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me


I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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