Herein’ I begin a new tradition, whereby I draw a card from my beloved Tarot and express thoughts around the concepts the card has inspired. I hope you enjoy!
Interestingly enough, the card I pulled this morning was the Page of Cups, which actually represents surprise inspiration (the boy in the image is often depicted as listening to the whispered words of a fish jumping suddenly from his cup). Very fitting, since the idea to begin these posts hit me out of the blue, which is a characteristic condition this card describes. And being a Pisces, I also identify strongly with the fish. (Us fish are very inspired people.)
When I think of inspiration, I feel there are a number of ways one can go about seeking it.
There’s the direct approach, where you cultivate a number of ideas through the sheer will of your imagination. This is the form of inspiration that is most often asked of us in our work, especially with people who work in creative industries.
Evolution is another key element in inspiration… Gathering ideas from the outside world, starting with a nugget of an idea, and letting it evolve as information and notions are collected. For instance, the use of a mood board may have some basic ideas to guide its creation at the start, but as it evolves organically it may generate new ideas that take over or guide the concept into different directions. Whether using brainstorms, thumbnailing, mood boards or other methods of idea generation, it often takes time and revisiting an idea on a regular basis to see it mature into something truly unique.
And then there is one level of inspiration that goes beyond the will of the imagination or the evolution of a concept… It’s the inspiration that “strikes as lightning from above.” Sometimes it seems to come out of continually working and thinking on a project, but just as often it can be the unexpected idea that often catches you when you don’t have a pen — or as is often the case with me… driving the car. (My theory is that ideas put down their defenses simply because I’m not prepared to capture them. Or maybe it’s really that, when I’m looking at them directly, I’m actually too stiff to catch them.)
You can mindfully make space for this kind of creative revelation through regular meditation or any sort of allowance for a quiet, reflective time. This is especially the kind of creative act that seems to be in direct opposition to our Western ideas of creativity. It is generally believed that if we aren’t obviously at work on something, it isn’t really work. We convince ourselves that sitting down and meditating awhile is avoidance, when it can actually be the most powerful tool in our arsenal. (It doesn’t mean we won’t have to craft the idea into something brilliant, but if we have something truly deep to start with, our chances of finding success and enjoyment will be much higher.)
What is often missing in our pursuit of creative ideas in Western culture is the process of unfolding and allowing for the quiet time that truly encourages inventiveness. I would even argue that working less on something in the early stages and taking regular breaks to invite inspiration in can make the work stronger for the mere fact that the result will be more soulful and truly inspired.
The Page of Cups specifically represents the kind of inspiration that seems to come from outside of ourselves. It can be like the Genius that Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her Ted Talk, or it can be given structured time to appear as David Lynch does through his daily use of Transcendental Meditation. It can also come through synchronicity, in the form of an inspired suggestion from a friend. Maybe, like the Tarot card, it seems fishy at first, and upon deeper reflection is revealed for the stroke of genius it truly is.
It seems obvious that in most cases our creativity needs some direction and application of effort to be fruitful, but I feel that leaving room for the strike of lightning to appear is an essential part of our practice, and necessary to find real — and deeper — inspiration. At the very least it requires the eternal presence of a pen and paper; at best the time to let an idea unfold in stages; and at most it involves a routine, quiet time in which to unravel ourselves awhile and enter our subconscious world without expectation.
I think we lose the highest joys inherent in creative discovery when we don’t give at least some space in our creative practice for insight to strike. For me, that “Eureka!” is one of the most exciting things about being a creative being, and one of my favorite moments in the act of creation. I especially love when the inspiration hits as a big surprise, when it feels like a gift from the blue. Personally, I believe it is, and it is always out there, waiting for us to softly listen.
Elizebeth Gilbert on “Having a Genius” vs. “Being a Genius”
David Lynch on Trascendental Meditation