Sunday, February 2, 2014


File:The Main House Theatre, The Maltings Theatre & Arts Centre, Berwick-upon-Tweed, March 2009.jpg
What Inspires You?

Inspiration drives nearly every major facet of my life.  I teach theatre because I find it to be one of the most inspiring forms of art.  Taking a story and bringing it to life with a group of people is amazing.  I especially love the organic nature of drama.  When my play Stuck was performed, I had envisioned the entire work while I wrote it.  I knew what (I thought) it would look like from start to end.  The finished play was drastically different, but that was good, since so many different ideas were involved in creating a new and interesting piece of art.  I do enjoy working with kids too.  Children have the power to inspire me, and inspiring them is something I aim to daily (occasionally with some success).

I am marrying my soul mate, because every time I see or even think of her, I feel inspired.  After dating unsuccessfully, and beginning to feel a bit like a character from a sticom (my summer drama students like to call me Ted Mosby), I was wondering if I'd ever find love.  When I first saw Rachel, I was coming down an escalator.  We'd arranged a date over the internet, but I only had pictures to go off.  My initial reaction was "please let that be her- she's stunning," and it was.  Every time I am with Rachel, I no longer feel writer's block or unmotivated, I feel inspired.  She is also a writer, and has encouraged me to continue being my best.  I look forward to the day when we can do book tours together.

With Rachel at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, California
I write out of a desire to share my inspiration in words.  There are times I have definitely felt blocked.  The first novel I wrote (currently shelved, awaiting the day I try a compete re-write) took me just over ten years, and even then it wasn't right.  I vacillated from periods when the words poured out without effort, to days when I'd dig into my soul with a pair of tweezers, yanking each word out forcibly.  At times when inspiration slows, I have found travel and nature to be my chief sources for reigniting my inspiration.

Barras Nose - taken from Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
My time abroad was undoubtedly some of the most inspiring memories of my life.  When I was accidentally stranded overnight in Tintagel ( I climbed out to the edge of Barras Nose the following morning, fighting the fierce winds, and watched the sunrise from the edge of the cliffs.  It was breathtaking.

Sunset over Rome, from Piazza del Popolo
Living abroad was exhilarating: a week in Rome with Rachel; visiting the ruins of medieval abbeys in England; traveling to new and exciting places every week.  I did this all while working on the first draft of School of Deaths, and it definitely helped inspire the writing.  The location of the College of Deaths seemed to change weekly, as each week I'd visit a new and amazing place and want to set my story there (ironically, the location it ended up being set is not related to anything in that four-month period I experienced in Europe).

Glastonbury Abbey
Guy Fawkes' Day in London - 2011
Now that I am back in the States, and no longer traveling regularly, what can I do to remain inspired?  I experience moments where the words come easier.  My Winter Escape retreat two weeks ago, while brief, helped me reconnect with nature, and rekindle the spark of inspiration for my writing that was starting to wane.  Even at work, while inspired by theatre and children, there are days when I am in school so long I do not see the sun (I drive to and from work, which is a windowless building, in the night).  How do I keep my writing inspired at times like that?

For me, meditation has been one answer.  It helps me remain focused.  Making sure I revisit natural places regularly, even if it's a simple walk outside, also helps.  Spending time away from work and other stresses also helps me remain inspired.

Perhaps the key is actually recognizing inspiration.  Anything can inspire us if we let it, from the news, to a "conversation" over twitter.

Perhaps inspiration isn't the act of journeying in search of a muse, it's the act of recognizing the muse in ourselves.  Several years ago, I read Julia Cameron's excellent book The Artist's Way, which focuses on methods to reclaim your own muse.  Shortly after reading it, I found myself recognizing inspiration in daily life.  Stress can be a fog, but the light of inspiration is always there, once we look past the fog.

Again, I ask:
What Inspires You?


  1. Hi Chris, I was only talking about inspiration for my writing the other day. When I wrote Sam and The Sea Witch it was because of the place I was staying and at the same time I was reading about sea witches living around the fishing villages in England. Please visit my blog and leave a comment if you Wish!

  2. You've summed the topic up so eloquently, I don't have much to add! While travel is inspiring, as a mom, I can't just fly off when the muse hits. Don't laugh, but I enjoy "virtual travel" (speaking of which, thanks for the beautiful pictures).

    One of my biggest inspirations is a good book -- I want to recreate some more of that magic.

    Best wishes to you and Rachel with your dreams!

  3. Inspiration...that's quite a topic. I write a LOT...inspiration has come from something as nebulous as the way a man's lips lightly twitch when he's frowning, to something much easier to define...observing a harried mother trying to hold onto one of her very energetic toddlers...she wants him to stay with her, he wants to to escape into the depths of the store, strip off his clothes while serenading the sales ladies as he goes. Retrieving her naked mini-tenor over and over has the poor mother blushing bright red while making the day of the bored sales ladies brighter.