Sunday, March 23, 2014

Creating a Framework for Inspiration

I'm a big believer in awareness plans.

That's a metacognitive procedure or mental recipe for perceiving and thinking about the environment around us. A lens for interacting with the world. A plugin for the human operating system.

It's a framework for inspiration. A strategy to help inspiration seek you out.

Let’s say you decide to start writing a blog. Like it not, you’ve just installed a new awareness plan. Because the metacognition of thinking about what you're going to say, looking for interesting things to blog about, that’s a posture change. That’s a different way of experiencing the world. And it’s amazing how quickly inspiration seeks you out when your blog paints you into that corner of having to post something once or twice or five times a week.

As a daily blogger for more than a decade, blogging taught me to do justice to the things I notice. The day I started blogging, I also started walking around like I was holding puzzle pieces. I became hyper sensitive to the world around me. And I approached every encounter as grist for the mill. This delicate sense, this posture of incurable curiosity, allowed even the tiniest experiences to inspire me. And it’s kept the queue filled with things to blog about every since. One millions words and counting.

Or what about photography?

A camera, after all, is only a tool. What’s important are your eyes and what you see in your head. That’s another awareness plan.

Instagram, for example, is literally and figuratively a filter through which to experience your world. That’s why I find photography so fascinating. The simple fact that I have a camera in my pocket forces me to notice those serendipitous ephemeral moments, sneak up on them from behind without a sound, close my palms around them like lightning bugs, and release those moments back into the world.

Like the scrap of paper I found on the ground that was in the shape of a dog, which turned out to be a receipt from a pet store. Tell me that’s not inspiring.

And so, photography is this beautiful process, this awareness plan, I’ve come to love. Not unlike inhaling sentences to document into my creative inventory, scouring for those moments to capture as images has also become one of my favorite ways to stay engaged and present with the world.

I’m reminded of George Carlin, who was once asked how young writers could stay prolific over the long arc of their careers. His advice was, as long as you have observations to make, as long as you can see things and let them register against your template, and as long as you’re able to take impressions and compare them with the old ones, you will always have material. You can’t run out of ideas as long as you keep getting new information and you can keep processing it.

And so, once you find the awareness plans that work for you, whether they involve technology or just a way of comparing and contrasting your experiences, they become a precursor for prolificacy. They stimulate insight and curiosity, improve cognitive readiness and psychological openness, influencing your feelings and views of the world, freeing you from the bonds of traditional perceptual sets and helping you treat things in life in a constructive and enlightened fashion.

With a strategy like that, writer’s block will become a thing of the past.