The summer has ended abruptly, slamming shut the wide open spaces I had been using to create. This blip of a summer was my muse, and I loved every minute of envisioning and making.
The last two weeks of July would find me in Maine, that distant place where the sea and stones talk much. The two weeks were filled with inspiration for creative projects and details of already begun endeavors. The way the water left the sand, the patterns on a stone, the view from Cadillac mountain, the funny conversations of small-town folks and tourists—these were packed away into notebooks and sketchbooks where I could come to them again.
Driving home and watching the mountains of Vermont become again the hills of Ohio, it occurred to me that creativity craves adventure. When our creativity feels stretched and dull, perhaps we should seek out new places and spaces. Seeing places I had never seen helped me look at a character differently, helped me think differently about the way I drew letters together on the page.
Walking around Damariscotta, Maine, I realized, too, that going new places may not always require crossing state lines. Sometimes it is our eyes that must be new--looking at different parts of the whole. I ended up in a sweltering laundromat, waiting on my laundry, and when the neat building across the street had been sketched, I was so tired of being sweaty, I thought I could not think of anything more to draw. But then, though laundromats are nothing new to me and most seem very similar, inspiration jumped out. I looked at the long line of dryers, spinning hundreds of clothes and 20 sleeping bags from a camp dizzyingly round and round. A pattern emerged, and I hasted to translate it into a word, a word that is for beginnings and new things: hello. So maybe I needed to go to familiar places, look at them with eyes that do not sweep over the familiar, but examine details small and large. I might even start in my own house.
If you are wondering whether I went anywhere more interesting than a laundromat in Maine, rest assured I did. I took lots of pictures, and am sharing some I captured to use later: sand patterns for lettering and mountain views and trails for a story. The landscape moved me the most—I sometimes get stuck in describing the landscape where I live in my stories. But Maine. Rocky islands and points that poke the sea, pines that poke the sky. Harbors and different shaped hills. New and needed. My horizons broadened, and I knew where my characters would go next. The landscape got me un-stuck in my story.
Seeing new places brought more patterns like the laundromat, new ideas for letters. Visiting six bookstores brought inspiration for lessons, too. Creative lessons that pulled together art and words, ideas and images.
If you are stuck, or tired, or bored with a project that deep down, you know you love, may this be of use? Say hello to a new place. Maybe it is the town down the road you've been meaning to explore. Or the new restaurant that opened six months—oh, wait—was that a year ago? Maybe take that trip out west or up north or back east or down south or across the sea that you've wanted to take for years. Maybe walk into your kitchen as though you'd never been there and see what you can see with new eyes.
There is nothing quite so inspiring as a hello—because hello means something new.
Now I am challenged to go places with new eyes.
Or to go to new places close by.
There is much of the world we never see—
a vast menu for creativity.
What new place inspired a new project or idea recently?
What new place would you like to say hello to?
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