Be Your Own Inspiration

As seasonal depression has slowly but surely sucked all of the life and motivation out of me in the last few months, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to write. An overwhelming sense of shame and mediocrity grip me as I attempt to do my daily poetry. I’m so distracted by the idea that I am not good enough, that my words are ignorant and hollow, that I can’t concentrate for long enough to create anything. Then this only reaffirms my crippling self-doubt, making it harder to come back to my laptop the next day.

Yesterday after finishing a poem that I wasn’t particularly proud of, I decided to read some of the older ones I had compiled for publishing this coming year. Even though I’ve done this in the past, I was still surprised at just how wonderful I felt these older poems were. I know I was partly moved because they reminded me of the times when I had written them, but I can’t deny that they are also excellent poems in their own right. I think anyone could enjoy them just as much as I have. The more I read, the more thick the wall of tears became against my eyelids, inevitably overflowing into hot streams down my cheeks. I wrote these. I had to keep reminding myself.

Today despite still not feeling particularly creative or inspired, the sense that I’m a failure and I’ve never written anything good nor will I ever write anything good is absent. I know that inspiration will find me again. I believe in and am proud of the things I have already created. I feel at peace inside this artistic dry spell.

Looking back at my old work was exactly what I needed. I’ve done this in the past not only with my poetry, but with my art as well. One day I was nearly in tears, wondering how I had ever believed I could draw or use my drawing tablet at all. Then I decided to pull up some of my old drawings. I was so happy looking at them. These are really good! I was delighted and surprised that I was so easily able to forget my own talent.

Sometimes the combination of mental illness, writer’s block, and exposure to so many other people’s amazing work online can leave us feeling inadequate. In these moments I try to remind myself of Lizzo’s wise words: “I am my inspiration.” We don’t need to be at the same level or have the same style of writing or drawing as other people. It can be hard to be an impartial judge of our own talent. That’s why it’s important to go back over our older work. So many times I’ve found that something I once hated or didn’t think much of has turned out to be one of my best creations when I look back. The poems I wrote as a teenager that I was embarrassed by seem simply beautiful to me now. I’ve even decided to publish them, and they’re available on Amazon if you’re interested.

I guess my point is, don’t trust your opinion of yourself or your ability when you are feeling low. The mind has a way of convincing us of things that aren’t true, especially when it comes to our perceptions of ourself. Just be patient and remind yourself through hard evidence. If your brain is telling you that you can’t write, go back and read what you’ve already written to prove it wrong. If it says you can’t draw, take the time to enjoy a personal art show of past works to silence that critical voice. Hell, sometimes this even works if I’m having a particularly bad body image day. I’ll look at somewhat recent photos I’ve taken of myself to remember that I can feel beautiful.

The only person you need to compare yourself to is your past self. Be your own inspiration. And most importantly, I want you to remember that every single thing you have created or will create is incredible and worthwhile, because it is a piece of your mind made manifest. When I look at something someone I love has drawn or written however silly it may seem to them, I love it. I love it because it came from them, and that’s all that matters. That’s what makes everything any one of us creates special and perfect. And lastly, let yourself rest sometimes. I promise your inspiration will come back soon enough.

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Looking Inside

The blank page is a practice
of reaching deep within
to see what lies in the shadows
behind your heart, suspended
on the other side of silence

Some days you'll find it flooded
a pressure valve in need of release
other days a smooth wall with no seams
a concrete caste that's settled over everything
impenetrable, cold, and cruel cocoon

Some days writing is as easy
as stepping into the stream
of liquid emotion flowing freely
tracing the contours and shadows
of an aching that appears in living color

Some days it takes a chisel
to search for cracks in thick cement
an uncomfortable effort to uncover
the clumsy, crude impressions
of a crippled and cringing unconscious

Unprompted outpourings of an overflowing heart
contrasted with a stiffness that contracts the soul
unable to predict which familiar state awaits me
as I sit down dutifully to endure
whoever I am today

Teach Me How to Know You

I so desperately want to know the delicate details that make up the lives of others. The small, seemingly insignificant instances that strike us all, the strange stiches that have sown us into who we are today. The utterly unique patchwork pattern of experiences that compose every individual. Intimate, private memories that stand out and tangle up our hearts with hidden meaning. I don’t want to know how your day is going. I want to know who you are.

Small talk has always been one of my deepest frustrations, a tedious trial to be muddled through with the intention of reaching the real conversations that lie beneath it. My jaw clenches at the impossible effort it takes for me to navigate this fragile transition. Some people seem to open themselves to my curious soul like the mouth of a river into the ocean. Infatuation, fascination, true connection. The inexplicable, spirit quenching rawness of seeing behind the curtain of another person’s consciousness. The conversations that feel like pure creation.

Other people remain forever closed to me. Infuriating mysteries, staring at the bare walls of an empty room. No cracks to peer through, no insight to be uncovered. I can’t think of the right questions to break through blank stares. I know there is so much more inside, behind those unknowable eyes. Everyone has the depth that I hold within, an entire galaxy of thoughts, perceptions, and memories. But how do I learn to unveil the inner world of others? I can’t just ask them who they are. This gradual uncovering must come organically. Yet patience alone isn’t enough to draw it out.

The more often I find myself unable to crack the complicated code of true connection, the more I surrender to inner solitude. Giving up is what I know best, especially when it comes to other people. When I can’t see someone, I can’t believe that they see me. The smothered shouting of my soul demands a real witness. Demands to be drenched in the bottomless black water of knowing another being.

Creation & Destruction

Life lies within the terror
of a trembling hand held above
a new, clean, white page

Excitement and hesitation
entangled within an instant
sacrificing potential for something palpable

The fearful finality of ink on paper
the necessary decision to destroy what could be
to give form to something that truly is

Life and death in a single stroke of a pen
the bleeding stain of creation
that satisfies as it stings

Curating Good Vibes

I tested out a little journaling exercise the other day that I really enjoyed, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. As you may have picked up on from my poems yesterday, I went to a wedding this Saturday. Even though I was really excited, there was still a lot of anxiety surrounding that day. I’ve only been to one other wedding in my entire life. It was also going to fully take up one of my only days off for the week, which for me is a huge trigger for my anxiety. The night before I decided to lie in bed and journal for a bit before going to sleep. But instead of just letting my thoughts flow freely onto the page, I decided to try doing it a bit differently.

Normally I would have started writing about how anxious I was and how irritated I am at myself for being so stressed out about something so silly. I didn’t really feel in the mood to ruminate on the negative feelings I was already experiencing though. Instead, I started to write from the perspective of how I wanted to feel. There was a part of me that was excited and happy and looking forward to the next day. So I let that side of me take the reigns and remind me why I had nothing to fear. It felt like the way I used to write when I was a kid excited for a field trip or something.

I wrote about what a beautiful day it was going to be, how I was going to feel spending time with people I love, and all the little details about what the day would consist of that I was going to enjoy. I felt much better after I was finished. I really believe how well the wedding ended up going was directly effected by my positive focus the night before. It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I definitely want to start doing more journaling like this in the future.

I hope you give it a try and it is helpful to you. Let me know if you’ve done this before or if you have any other journaling tips/tricks to put you in a better headspace. I’d love to hear how you like to journal or what you’ve discovered or created that you find useful.

The Artist

I'd love to know how others write
do they have a plan before
they put pen to paper or
place their fingers on the keys
do they know where they're going
as they embark upon this daily journey

For me writing is a chance encounter
with my secretive inner self
I never know what she has to say
until I sit down to listen
the conversation begins in silence
shyly unraveling in slow motion

Revelations of private wisdom
glimmering behind the veil
of the person I pretend to be
that funny feeling of never knowing
what's inside my own mind until
I give it space to surface

The stifling self-criticism that bars the door
to my still, secluded, subconscious sanctuary
tells me a masterpiece must have a plan
fills me with fear of wasting time translating
an underwhelming message
that doesn't matter

But conversations do not have blueprints
you can't predict which will change you
or save you suddenly from yourself
it's always worth it to take the risk
even if it's just for the pleasure
of having someone to talk to

So I faithfully open the door each morning
hoping that the artist within arrives
to tell me something beautiful 
even though some days she stands me up
she is a busy woman after all
with lots of better things to do

Alternate Ambitions

The internet is great at giving us a false perception of the way other people live and conduct themselves from day to day. Despite this flawless image YouTubers and other influencers give off, one thing still seems real to me: their ability to focus their talents and efforts and present them in a consistent format to their followers. They find their content niche and stick to it diligently until they manage to build up a following.

This is an impressive feat in my opinion. My creative interests are so scattered and fluctuating. It’s pretty apparent if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. I can never seem to pick a theme or pursuit and stick to it. I have far too many things I’d like to work on. I realize that I can’t do them all. If I want to monetize these creative outlets for myself or create cohesive finished products for a personal brand, I have to focus my energy on one thing at a time. Focusing on one thing, feels like abandoning all of my other interests though. I tend to lose momentum and start feeling stuffy and stagnant when I work in one arena for any amount of time.

I should consider myself lucky. Maybe these influencers really only have a small set of interests or talents, and that’s what makes it easy for them to narrow down their creative range to catch a consistent audience. I’m truly blessed to have so many passions and creative gifts that I could turn into a personal or career path. My biggest obstacle is wrangling my attention and fixing it on a single endeavor to complete a bigger, well thought-out project. Maybe on some level I’m just afraid that if I devote too much time and energy to one creative medium and don’t receive a return on that investment, I’ll feel like a fool or a failure.

Just for context, here is a list of all of the things I’ve been swirling around in my head that I’d like to work on:

  • Podcasting (no idea what of the thousand topics I’d be able to settle on)
  • YouTube (same issue)
  • Online/Livestream Yoga
  • Private Yoga lessons
  • Vegan mentorship
  • Art (selling prints, commissions)
  • Writing (Poetry, short-stories, fiction, non-fiction)
  • Positive Affirmation Coloring Book (publishing and marketing it)

Obviously I can’t expect myself to actualize all of these possibilities. The vague idea of each and every one of them fills me with excitement, inspiration, and motivation. When I get down to the details and the physical steps I’d need to take to turn these ideas into something concrete, I become paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. I may have a lot of creative energy and valuable talents, but I have no idea how to market them or myself in any meaningful way. The idea of creating a mediocre finished product leaves me feeling awful. There is also a fear that by turning any one of these ideas into a business would rob me of the joy I have just doing them for fun.

If I had any money at all, I would likely go out and find myself a manager or someone to help me stay on track and advertise one of these skills. However, anxiety over money is the only reason I’ve been so eager to find a way to profit off of these ideas in the first place. For now, I’m planning on finishing the steps of publishing my positive affirmation coloring book. I’ve already got 30 drawings to compile for it and a good idea of who I would be able to market it to in my community as well as online. I’m just stuck in the limbo of trying to navigate self publishing and perfecting the tiny details about compiling them into a presentable book.

When I find myself struggling with these practical steps, I can’t help but feel pulled to abandon the idea all together and chase a different goal. Logically, I know I’ll eventually face the same problems with anything I try to produce. At the end of the day, I think lacking self-confidence is what’s holding me back. As I continue to try to move forward towards securing a self-determined future for myself, I’m going to try to imagine what I would do if I were confident. A confident person doesn’t get bogged down with the little details and agonize over making everything utterly perfect. I have great ideas. I’m extremely intelligent and talented. And I am going to make something incredible to contribute to the world. That’s the kind of energy that’s going to carry me forward into the next phase of my life.

Bashful Creation

it's embarrassing to lay your soul bare
flowery language spilling out of fingertips
onto a painfully white page
afraid of being perceived
as stroking my own ego
or propping myself up
as something special
there is nothing unique or profound
in the experiences I paint
somewhere along the line
I got the idea in my mind
that producing anything
is the same as proclaiming
it's worthwhile for the rest of the world
to contemplate and consume
an arrogant arm extending outwards
with crumpled poems
clenched in a fist
but my words were never meant
for anyone but myself
publish them or pull them into pieces
to scatter in the breeze
it's all the same to me
the pleasure is in the act of creation
plucking dusty strings deep inside
to see what sound comes out
it doesn't matter if anyone else hears
I don't expect an applause
I don't need anyone else
to understand

Stream of Consciousness

a pouring out of words
to ease internal pressure
a tap placed on the heart
to allow thick emotion
to ooze out

catharsis in 26 characters
carving out space
by cataloguing thoughts
stacked up inside
a crowded, cluttered mind

creating a cadence
to carry us toward
new perspectives
crafting a story
to soothe our fears

writing it all down
is the greatest release
a remedy for rumination
pen on paper is what
the doctor prescribed

opening the floodgates
in an attempt to level out
a soul soaked in doubt
searching for the shore
spared from sinking at last

finding that flow state
is like rinsing out a wound
dislodging debris
to drift swiftly downstream
finally healing can begin

Connected

Why do I see this body
as the limits of my container
the pieces of matter that comprise me
continue on into the cosmos

even the air between you and I 
is saturated with shifting energy
carrying currents of information
through supposed emptiness

connection is everywhere I look
from the veins and tissues of this body
to the veins of mycelium and root systems underground
to the streams and rivers snaking across the earth

the illusion of separation is still poignant somehow
despite the new science that shows we are one
could I learn to feel beyond this form?
can I lift the veil of this life?

to recognize myself in all that I see
is to relinquish this unruly fear of reality
freedom is remembering a fate intertwined
uncovering a deep compassion for all of existence

To love myself is to love the world
to love the world is to love myself
we are inextricably intertwined
we are one in the same