What Moves You?
Guest Post by Diana M. Raab
This was a question frequently posed by my mentor, Anaïs Nin, and today I pose the question to you. Occasionally, I have fallen in the midst of what you could call a literary slump. 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. Here 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, but it is amusing, nevertheless, to see these ideas all lumped together. Below is a summary of what I found to be the most interesting and helpful tips offered by these writers.
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 that hangs on my writing studio’s wall, depicting 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, reminding myself that between seeing patients, William Carlos Williams used to draft his poetry on prescription pads. Speaking of Williams, while in Paris a few months ago, I visited one of the few English bookstores, The Red Wheelbarrow, named in honor of William Carlos Williams’ poem:
The Red Wheel Barrow
So much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Et voila! Here’s to inspiration.
Diana Raab is a memoirist, essayist, poet and author of seven books and editor of two essays collections, including the latest, Writers and Their Notebooks (2010) with an introduction by Phillip Lopate. She is a journaling advocate and teaches in UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and in various conferences around the country. Her forthcoming book, Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey is forthcoming from Loving Healing Press in June 2010. Visit Diana Raab.