Finding Creative Inspiration in Unexpected Places

UN Secretariat BuildingIt’s time to wrap up the short series of posts I’d begun about found “Artist Dates” in New York City. Julia Cameron describes Artist Dates as “assigned play,” and while she provides specific guidelines, I use the idea in a looser way. What is important is finding time and opportunities for—or just noticing—creative inspiration in our daily lives, whether at home or away.

The last couple of examples of creative inspiration that I want to share have to do with seeing something familiar in a new way and the importance of making time for sustained reading.

On the final day of our weekend in New York, my son and I once again were going to try to catch the free Game of Thrones exhibition, but, on our way, we decided to walk past the United Nations. Our son is a political science major who will be entering law school in the fall, and he’s always been interested in the history of the UN. It was a sunny, crisp Monday morning, and as we got closer to the UN complex, I suddenly realized that we might be able to go inside and get a tour, which we did in lieu of standing in line for GoT.

Our Italian tour guide, Francesca, couldn’t have been more welcoming and informative, and our group was itself a mini-UN of several nationalities. I was expecting to enjoy myself and exercise my brain a little, which I did, but I wasn’t expecting to be inspired creatively until we came to a wall where each article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has its own artistic space, written in an innocent child’s font and simply illustrated:

Human Rights Wall

Declaration of Human Rights

I’ve read these articles before and even once indexed a book about their creation, but the display drew us all in to linger on one or two individually rather than as part a long list of words. It was a gift of attention and focus as, to use Dan Pink’s terms, we switched from linear, textual L-directed thinking to a more design-centered and meaningful  R-directed thinking.

We never did make it to that Game of Thrones exhibition, but I got my Song of Ice and Fire fix nonetheless as I made substantial progress in reading the fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows. It’s the kind of book that I need to read in long stretches, not short bursts, because my middle-age brain quickly forgets the many characters and settings, and the long, relaxing evenings in our hotel room and hours spent both on planes and in airports were the perfect opportunity turn page after page after page. Like Susan Cain’s family, ours is a family for whom reading is a “primary group activity,” where “you have the animal warmth of your family sitting right next to you, but you are also free to go roaming around the adventureland inside your own mind.” Nothing recharges my creative batteries faster.

Where have you found creative inspiration lately?

Photos of Universal Declaration of Human Rights wall made available by Jordan Lewin under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


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