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What Inspires?

When talents  are channeled with passion into something that can be experienced by our senses, then, each of us can be an artist.  If you accept that art is defined as works produced by skill and imagination, then it makes sense to speak of ourselves as having potential to create art in whatever career or craft we choose in life.

As artists in life, so many times we find ourselves seeking inspiration to create, and even on the most basic level– to produce.

What exactly is inspiration?  What causes us to feel inspired?

At first attempt, I draw a blank in my mind when trying to describe what inspiration is.  If you avoid reading the definition below…are you able to define inspiration?

in·spi·ra·tion/ˌinspəˈrāSHən/

Noun:
  1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: “flashes of inspiration”.
  2. The quality of having been so stimulated, esp. when evident in something: “a moment of inspiration in an otherwise dull display”.

I find it incredible that the word inspiration comes from the Latin word inspirare, meaning “to breathe into”.  I more than like the thought of a muse, a higher power, or someone else’s creation– breathing the life of a new idea into my mind and spirit, and transforming my creative process.

Just what has inspired the great artists of our time and times past? I look to history for some clues.

WHAT INSPIRES?

1. Love in all its Forms

Love inspires artists, of course.  Love comes in the forms ranging from the depths of friendship to engulfing amorous love.  And women, in particularly, have served as muses for the greatest masterpieces ever composed in art, literature and in music. The beauty and mystique of the feminine mind and form has resulted in sensual, flowing brush strokes by the painter, magically woven words of the poet and rapturous notes of the musician. Women inspire qualities of passion or grace, and beauty and elegance.  Examples of women who have inspired artists include:

Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin) — A model at age 14 and the muse for many Surrealist artists of the 1920s. Kiki was Man Ray’s lover and he cast her in many famous photos and films, including Noire et Blanche (Black and White, 1926). Kiki was an accomplished cabaret singer, memoirist, and painter.

She was the wife of surrealist poet Paul Éluard and lover of painter Max Ernst.  But most notably, the Russian-born Gala Diakonova won the heart of Spanish painter Salvador Dalí, even though she was 10 years older than him. Dalí, was said to be a virgin when he was completely enraptured by Gala.  He painting her repetitively as an erotic goddess over a period of years…even as she aged.

Muse, former actress, and also wife of Italian artist Francesco Clemente, Alba Clemente traveled the world at her husband’s side, inspiring drawings, watercolors, pastels, prints, and paintings. Included in his self-portraits after meeting in Rome in 1974, she is often portrayed as Clemente’s female double or soul mate.

The Prussian-born Helga Testorf was a secretive model and muse for artist, realist painter Andrew Wyeth.  She became the captivating subject of Wyeth, her neighbor, for 15 years without the knowledge of her husband or his wife. Portrayed in 247 brooding portraits (with and without clothing), Helga became an American icon when she made the cover of Time magazine on August 18, 1986.

Of course, even men can prove that inspiration may also be gender-blind.  For example:

Johnny Depp/Tim Burton
These men made seven films together, including the art-house favorite Ed Wood and Alice in Wonderland. Quoting Burton, they communicate in a way that “wouldn’t really make sense to the normal person.” 

Lord Alfred Douglas/Oscar Wilde
When Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas had a relationship in the late 1800s, the playwright’s life changed forever and led to him being convicted of gross indecency.  Even so, he expressed his art through the inspiration he received by his muse.

Robert de Montesquiou/Marcel Proust, including others
Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac was a prominent 19th-century icon in high society circles.  He was a Savile Row clotheshorse and a talented decorator.  His strong and brilliant mind inspired many fictional characters, including Proust’s Baron Charlus in Remembrance of Things Past.

 

2. Spirituality

Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 – August 7, 1941), the bard of Bengal immaculately relayed the essence of Eastern spirituality to readers of his poetry.    Although he focused on God and spirituality, he  produced some of the most beautiful writings ever composed on the subject of love.

In Greek thought, inspiration meant that the poet or artist would go into a state of ecstasy or furor poeticus, the divine frenzy or poetic madness. He or she would be transported beyond his own mind and given the gods’ or goddesses own thoughts to embody.

In Christianity, inspiration is a gift of the Holy Spirit, with St. Paul saying that the Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy).  And in the account of Pentecost in the Bible, the Holy Spirit descended with the sound of a mighty wind to inspire the audience to trust in God.

3. Nature

Ralph Waldo Emerson introduces the idea that beauty is the part of nature and that beauty is a nobler want of humanity than a commodity which everyone must have to survive. Emerson advised that eauty in nature is not necessary for physical survival, but it is useful for its restorative powers.

Many times, simply a step out into a wooded forest, taking into the senses a serene coastal landscape, or even taking a walk and viewing a breathtaking outdoor city-scape can bring new life to a waning and dulling mind and serve as a real source of inspiration.

4. Life-Altering Events

Life-altering events are perhaps the most heart and soul rupturing, emotionally overturning, source of inspiration experienced.

Stories of people overcoming circumstances like being born with deformities, experiencing paralysis or amputee-type accidents, having a child with severe needs, and enduring war are a few examples of how conquering grave circumstances has the ability to become a source of inspiration for others. It is jolting to recognize that the adverse circumstance itself is able to become a source of inspiration.

Incredibly, a life-altering event can be as simple as someone believing in you or even you making a conscious decision to believe in yourself:

.

5. Money

People may be primarily inspired to create/perform in order to accumulate  large quantities of wealth.   In this sense money is a sore and lack luster source of inspiration.

However, in another sense, the need for money as a bare resource can create a hunger in the lives of men and women and serve as an incredible source for the highest level of inspiration.

Iconic movie director Frank Capra’s (It’s a Wonderful Life) rags-to-riches story has led film historians like Ian Freer to consider Capra the “American dream personified.”  Working his way up from a place of severe poverty, Capra has credited his adverse circumstances to be a key part of his success story.

At one point in Capra’s life when he was struggling to make ends meet, he got a job as a tutor for a musically talented boy named Baldwin M. Baldwin, the grandson of a millionaire.  As Capra tutored Baldwin in academics, to Capra’s dismay, although he found the boy’s musical capabilities extraordinary, he realized that the young man had little chance of success, because in living a life of extravagance, there was very little hunger stirring inside the young man to motivate him to become great.

And perhaps you remember Steve Job’s instruction to “stay hungry”?  Jobs gave insight to his own grassroots in a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005:

My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: ‘We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?’ They said: ‘Of course.

My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

“But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5 cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I LOVED IT.  ~Steve Jobs

Great minds are all around us. Photo by Danielle Zompi.

6. Great Minds

While we could list the many great minds of history who have undoubtedly inspired multitudes, I find that the great minds that I meet in everyday life inspire me the most.

From poetry written on a random blog, to an enlightening story told by an old man waiting for a train, to a sister that shows unconditional love–these are the real life occurrences that bring me the most inspiration.

If we forget about qualifying what inspires us, surely inspiration first comes from within before it comes from outside sources?  I think that a person must have the internal constitution to receive inspiration.  And, once a person is ready to receive inspiration,  then the inspiration will surely arrive.

Do you know what inspires you?  Are you able to name your inspiration?

The Massive Character of Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran liked to keep his personal life…personal.  It was not until his cousin and others wrote a biography about him that more intimate details about his life became known to the public.  He is mainly recognized for his 1923 book “The Prophet” (26 essay-style prose poems, delivered as sermons by a fictional wise man in a faraway time and place.  This work has been translated in 40 languages).  Some may not realize that Kahlil Gibran’s book had a cool reception by the critics; yet, sold surprisingly well, becoming extremely popular in the 1960s counterculture. Gibran is the 3rd best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you…“–Gibran, Sand and Foam” (1926)

Gibran in 1902 (18 or 19-years-old). Told by priests that he was a mystic—even “a young prophet”—he began to see himself that way. Photograph by Fred Holland Day.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. ~K. Gibran

How does a person write a feature on Kahlil Gibran? The minute I promised a reader I would do this, I felt an immediate twinge of regret.  But, I have a feeling that after meeting the mind of this great poet and artist, there will be no regrets.

It’s too bad that I completely missed the love-fest mentality of the 1960s when the resurgence of universal love became suddenly cool and lent Gibran’s work to the likes of song lyrics borrowed by John Lennon in his song “Julia” (1968), and even quotes used in an inauguration speech by JFK.

But, even so, right now seems like a good time to tap into a timeless fascination with Gibran, and drop by to visit this madly successful poet and artist…and I am beginning to wonder what has taken me so long to do it?

As I began to get knee-to-knee with Gibran, I started to imagine what type of child Kahlil must have been…

Born in 1883 in the village of Bsharri in  modern-day Lebanon, Gibran lived in a time when Lebanon was part of Syria, which was part of the Ottoman Empire.  Photograph by Fred Holland c. 1896 (Kahlil at 13 years old).

Thanks to Gibran’s cousin who wrote a biography “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World.” (and who was named after Gibran) we know a little bit about Gibran’s childhood.

Apparently, Gibran often brooded as a child, and was described as soulful.  He had an extreme penchant for drawing.  Painting was his first interest and most of the time trumped his interest in writing.

Near Kahlil’s hometown, Qadisha valley, courtesy of literary locales sjsu.edu. During stormy days, Gibran liked to go outside.

He adored nature, and whenever a storm would come, he would rip off his clothes and run out into the unsettling weather in a fit of ecstasy. His mother, Kamileh, let her boy relish in his strange ways and persuaded others to leave him alone.  “Sometimes,” Gibran’s cousin said, his mother “would smile at someone who came in…lay her finger on her lips and whisper, ‘Hush. He’s not here.’ ”

A portrait by Kahlil of his mother. Kamila, daughter of a priest, was 30 when Gibran was born and Khalil’s father was her third husband.[wiki] As a result of his family’s poverty, Gibran received no formal schooling during his youth. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible, as well as the Arabic and Syriac languages.

In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song. ~K. Gibran

A FATHER THAT DISAPPOINTED

Gibran’s father owned a walnut grove, but too often neglected to show up for work. Instead he drank and gambled too much and eventually landed a job as a tax collector, but a short time later, he was arrested for embezzlement. At this point, the family became destitute.

When Kahlil was eight, his father, was convicted of tax evasion and sent to prison as the Ottomon authorities confiscated the Gibrans’ property.  In 1895, Gibran’s mother Kamileh, had enough.  Unbelievably, her third marriage had just fallen apart.  She packed up her four children—Bhutros, Kahlil (12), Marianna, and Sultana—and sailed to America.   The events that led to the family exiting their country could have been the first great source of pain that Kahlil experienced in his life.

The family settled in the South end of Boston (known today as Boston’s Chinatown) in ghetto-like conditions but with a relatively heavy Lebanese population nearby. Kamileh, true to her Syrian roots, became a pack peddler and she went door to door, selling lace and linens out of a basket she carried on her back. It took her a year to save enough money to set Bhutros up in a drygoods store. The two girls worked as seamstresses. Kahlil’s only responsibility was to go to school.


–Kahlil as a young man.  

GIBRAN’S EDUCATION, MENTORS AND INFLUENCES

In Boston, Gibran enrolled in an art school at a nearby settlement house. His teachers introduced him to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day who supported Gibran in his creative endeavors. At that time, a publisher also used some of Gibran’s drawings for book covers in 1898.

Kahlil adopted much of the philosophy and attitude taught to him by his mentor Fred Holland Day. Day treated Gibran as a young prince and as you can imagine, this was really something for a young man to experience after coming from a destitute early life.  As a result of this strange confluence of struggle mingled with privilege that Kahlil experienced in his life–he adopted an emphasis on suffering, prophecy, and the religion of love, which became his modus operandi.

From wiki”:

At the age of fifteen, Gibran returned to his homeland to study at a Maronite-run preparatory school and higher-education institute in Beirut, called Al-Hikma (The Wisdom). He started a student literary magazine with a classmate and was elected “college poet”. He stayed there for several years before returning to Boston in 1902, coming through Ellis Island (a second time) on May 10.[11] Two weeks before he got back, his sister Sultana died of tuberculosis at the age of 14. The next year, his brother died of the same disease and his mother died of cancer. His sister Marianna supported Gibran and herself by working at a dressmaker’s shop.[3]

Two other key people who influenced Gibran include:

 

Abdu’l-Bahá, Kahlil was greatly impressed with the leader of the Bahá’í Faith during his travel to America in the time period 1911-12. Gibran admired his teachings on peace. His famous poem “Pity The Nation” was written during this period.

Mikhail Naimy, a distinguished master of Arabic literature, whose child became Kahlil’s godson–was a great friend and influence in Gibran’s life.
As the above quote reminds us, around 1902 and within a time period of about 1 1/2 years, Kahlil lost his mother, his sister, and his brother to illnesses.   Since wiki presents this information as so matter-of-fact and somewhat banal in style, I wonder if we fail to grasp the intense sense of loss and emotional pain that Kahlil must have felt during this time of seeing three of his closest family members die within such a short time?

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ― Khalil Gibran

THE LOVE STORY OF KAHLIL AND MARY

It was 1904, when 21-year-old Gibran held his first Boston art exhibition of drawings in Boston at Fred Day’s studio. During the exhibition, he met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a school headmistress. Mary was 10 years older than Gibran and the two began a friendship that lasted until his death.

Kahlil’s portrait of Mary Haskell

New Yorker writer Joan Acocella recapped a general account of the Kahlil and Mary Haskell love story based on a biography written by Robin Waterfield.

And, there is no way I can tell the story of the type of love Kahlil and Mary had, better than this…

On a More Personal Side…

From Author Joan Acocella on Kahlil Gibran and His Possible Muse, Mary Haskell:

 

Mary Haskell, the headmistress of a girls’ school in Boston, was a New Woman. She believed in long hikes, cold showers, and progressive politics…She was not rich, but by careful thrift—the school’s cook, who also had some wealthy employers, sneaked dinners to her from their kitchens—she managed to put aside enough money to support a number of deserving causes: a Greek immigrant boy who needed boarding-school tuition, and another Greek boy, at Harvard. Then she met Gibran, who would be her most expensive project.

In the beginning, her major benefaction to him was simply financial—she gave him money, she paid his rent. In 1908, she sent him to Paris for a year, to study painting. Before he went abroad, they were “just friends,” but once they were apart the talk of friendship turned to letters of love, and when Gibran returned to Boston they became engaged. It was apparently agreed, though, that they would not marry until he felt he had established himself, and somehow this moment never came. Finally, Haskell offered to be his mistress. He wasn’t interested. In a painful passage in her diary, Haskell records how, one night, he said that she was looking thin. On the pretext of showing him that she was actually well fleshed, she took off her clothes and stood before him naked. He kissed one of her breasts, and that was all. She got dressed again. She knew that he had had affairs with other women, but he claimed that he was not “sexually minded,” and furthermore that what she missed in their relationship was actually there. When they were apart, he said, they were together. They didn’t need to have “intercourse”; their whole friendship was “a continued intercourse.” More than sex or marriage, it seems, what Haskell wanted from Gibran was simply to be acknowledged as the woman in his life. As she told her diary, she wanted people to “know he loved me because it was the greatest honor I had and I wanted credit for it—wanted the fame of his loving me.” But he would not introduce her to his friends. “Poor Mary!” Waterfield says. Amen to that.

Acocella links this way of interpersonal behavior to his writing:

Then, there is the pleasing ambiguity of what Almustafa (in “The Prophet”) is saying… namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite. Such paradoxes, which Gibran had used for years to keep Haskell out of his bed, now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by their seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes

Although this account is somewhat confusing as to Gibran’s true intentions toward Mary, some believe that Kahlil loved Mary in a profoundly immersive, fathomless, and truly spiritual way that few two people have experienced or will ever experience.  Still others think that Kahil mainly felt an eternal kinship with Mary, that was absent of sexuality.  The dynamics of this relationship are truly mysterious.

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation. ~K.Gibran


HIS MESSAGE

One thing we know is that Gibran played down the pursuit of material possessions and things with empty meaning, in favor of pursuing a mind-bending, extraordinary, hyper-evolved state of love itself.  He offered instruction from the heart on finding and receiving this give-and-take sort of nirvana love that seemed to always need a loose-hold on love’s wonder in order to survive and flourish.

His emphasis on mystic spirituality surfaced throughout his life and the way he examined spiritual matters has had a profound influence on a multitude of spiritual “truth-seekers”.

Today, in the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a literary and political rebel. His Romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature, breaking away from the classical school of thought. In “The Prophet”, Gibran is concerned with unifying mankind.  His themes of drawing close to one another, kindness, and forgiveness are communicated in a way that sparks the senses and causes a sudden understanding.

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. ~K. Gibran

HIS DEATH

Khalil Gibran died on April 10, 1931 in New York City of cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis. Gibran wished to be buried in Lebanon and this wish was fulfilled in 1932, when Mary Haskell and Kahlil’s sister, Mariana bought the Mar Sarkis Monastery in Lebanon, which is now the Gibran Museum.  Prior to his death, Kahlil left instructions on the specific epitaph that he wished to leave behind…

I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you. ~Kahlil Gibran’s self-authored epitaph

HIS LEGACY

Gibran’s contents of the studio went to Mary Elizabeth, where she found her previously written letters there. She gave the letters to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library and her personal art collection of art by Gibran (more than 100 pieces) to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. This is the largest public collection of Gibran’s visual art in the United States. It constitutes five oils and number of written works depicting the artist’s lyrical style. His hometown of Bsharri still receives the American royalties from his books

EXAMPLES OF HIS WORK

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.― Khalil GibranThe Prophet

Kahlil Gibran, The Summit from Sand and Foam, c. 1925, Watercolor and pencil on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches, Telfair Museums, Gift of Mary Haskell Minis, 1950

Works Originally written in Arabic: Works originally written in English:
Spirits Rebellious (1908) The Madman (1918)
The Broken Wings (1912) The forerunner (1920)
A Tear and A Smile (1914) The Prophet (1923)
The Procession (1918) Sand and Foam (1926)
jesus, the son of man (1928)
posthumously: selected shorter works: 
The earth gods (1931) The new frontier
The wanderer (1932) i believe in you
The garden of the prophet (1933) my countrymen
lazarus and his beloved (1933) satan
you have your lebanon and i have my lebanon
your thought and mine

“All things in this creation exist within you, and all things in you exist in creation; there is no border between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things. In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence; in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.” – Kahlil Gibran.


“A man’s true wealth is the good he does in the world. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran had a monumental heart and was relentlessly moved by the unceasing and mystical power of love itself, and his mind was open to learn about spirituality and growth as a human being, both individually and as part of a community.

Most importantly, Gibran was not lazy.  He did not daydream his life away.  He told whomever would listen what he learned in life and what he believed to be true.  And this, in itself, could be the greatest message of all by Kahlil Gibran.  If we are all a mirror of eternity, then much of our potential lies dormant within, ready to awaken whenever we give the signal.

All that spirits desire, spirits attain. ~Kahlil Gibran

Writing Methods: Writer’s Block Combat

Handpainted Cabinet cards (1870s-1920s) by Alex Gross.

It takes sheer effort to create thoughts and ideas.  In fact, the attempt to be creative and original can be exhausting and result in things like “writer’s block”, frustration and “hitting a wall”.

Some would say that many of us work too hard to be creative, and we need to stop thinking so much, and let what is already in our minds flow out in our writing, words, creativity and actions.

The practice of simply observing and reporting what is already in the mind is not new (but sometimes forgotten).  In fact, many great artists have developed their art in exactly this way.

For example, the Expressive Theory of Art simply means communicating the current inner emotional, psychological, or intellectual state of being.  The artist is not trying to “think of” new ideas, he is simply expressing the ideas that are already there.  Consider Tolstoy’s view:

Young Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s definition of art was very much out of the Expressive mould.

Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one person consciously, by certain external signs, conveys to others feelings he’s experienced, and other people are affected by these feelings and live them over in themselves. (Leo Tolstoy)

If we quit trying (expending effort) to develop the words, concepts, and ideas in our minds, and instead observe and relay what is already in our minds, what happens?

Since effort to create takes enormous energy, using this energy to release what is in our minds instead of trying to create what is not in our minds could be a transformational experience.

In the field of psychology, introspection is the method of observing and reporting the workings of the mind.  Iconic figures like Plato and Paramahansa Yogananda were proponents of the practice of introspection:

Plato (427-347 BC), Ancient Greek philosopher. Plato’s spirit of rational inquiry led to today’s scientific method. His writings shaped and continue to have a profound influence on Western thought. He was a pupil of Socrates, founded the Academy in Athens, and taught Aristotle. Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Caption:

Plato may have referenced introspection when he asked, “…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are.

Paramahansa Yogananda

“Introspection is a mirror in which to see recesses of your mind that otherwise would remain hidden from you. –Paramahansa Yogananda

In regard to the art of writing, a key method that produces writing without forced thought is referred to as “stream of consciousness” writing.  Basically, the idea is to write whatever pops into your head, without altering these thoughts in any way with conscious thinking.  It is an amazing exercise to try to write a story by observing the story that is already playing in your head, without even trying to create new material.  As I practice stream of consciousness writing, I find it beautifully but at the same time frightfully rewarding.

By Zapper3095, Deviant Art

 If you try to write a story by just observing what is in your mind and putting your thoughts to paper, then you will most likely know the exact feeling that I am trying to describe when experiencing stream of consciousness writing.

I remember listening once to a screenwriter accepting an academy award.  I recall the screenwriter once saying that he didn’t really try to come up with concepts and stories , but simply noticed what was in his head and spilled out the information on paper, worked with staff, and helped transpose his thoughts onto film.  Remembering his acceptance speech prompted me to start studying this method (it’s strange how an abstract experience like this can stay with you).

And then it hit me. Maybe this is a method that many successful people use to accomplish a great deal of success in their lives. And perhaps trying too hard is at times a fault.  Maybe “try, try again” is not perfect advice; and, instead a better mantra is to stop your effort, take notice of what’s in your head and then act on what’s already there (just waiting to be noticed).

“It’s a funny state,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler, You’re dreamstorming, inviting the images of moment-to-moment experience through your unconscious. It’s very much like an intensive daydream, but a daydream that you are and are not controlling.”

It’s not that hard to grasp this concept, right?  Just look at what’s right there in your head, express it and do it.  It’s so simple–but sometimes there is conflict within a person against this way of being, because there is the belief that an idea has to be conjured up or created out of thin air.

Here are some examples that are possibly familiar to you, where the author used stream of consciousness writing to complete some of the greatest literary works of all time (source:  Stream of Consciousness, Narrative Mode, Wikipedia):

T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was done in Stream of Consciousness (SOC) Style of Writing. Prufrock sheds light on his self -doubting thoughts in lines (37-48) of the poem…
And indeed there will be time            To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”] Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

IF by Rudyard Kipling (SOC Style of Writing)

Photo of Virginia Woolf, Stream of Consciousness is a literary technique which was pioneered by Dorthy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. Stream of consciousness is characterized by a flow of thoughts and images, which may not always appear to have a coherent structure or cohesion.

Of course, I don’t know all of the answers in regard to how to free the mind, but it makes me stop in my tracks when I consider how I may improve my methods of thought.  And I’d like to try embracing the Expressive Theory of Art, the practice of Introspection, and Stream of Consciousness methods in pursuit of living an unbridled life full of truth and authenticity.

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