Ice and Sky
Sometimes, teaching others actually educates ourselves.
I’ve been answering a lot of questions on Quora lately. (Quora is a place to ask questions, find answers, and write answers.) Mostly on blogging, for some reason.
Most of them are pretty annoying. “How do I make money from my blog?” “How can drive people to my blog posts?” Some are so vague, I don’t even know what they’re asking. So I skip most of these. I don’t try to make money from my blogging anymore, it gets to weird. (Of course, I would never refuse money!) (Seriously, go buy something from me on Etsy if you want to support my work.)
But sometimes, I see that someone really does need a tiny bit of encouragement to do the work they yearn to do. Those I’m a sucker for!
Only a couple of answers have gotten serious upvotes, but I’m still grateful for even one upvote. Just like I used to swoon over a single “like” in my blog’s comments section. (Actually, I still do!)
But here’s the upside:
It gives me a chance to encourage people to do the work of their heart.
It gives me a chance to actually write something.
And now I realize I can simply repost some of these answers as blog posts.
So, for today, here’s a Quora post answer I answered today, with a link to a poem I wrote years ago that actually made me tear up. I’d forgotten about it!
Question: How do you gain inspiration to write in your blog each week?
I pay attention to anything that catches my interest. Especially anything I realize I’m STILL thinking about.
There are a jillion things going on around us, every day, if only we paid attention to them. In fact, there’s so much going on, our brains have evolved to limit our attention. (One reason why LSD creates powerful “trips”. We are suddenly aware of everything which is amazing, overwhelming, and potentially scary.)
The trick is is make a note of these “interest catchers”, and think about why they caught our attention. (In fact, “why” is often the start of all my inspirations!)
This is why I have such odd series on my own blog. “Questions You Don’t Have to Answer” when I realized people ask odd questions when they are interested in my work at art fairs, and how to respond without getting angry and taking offense (which shuts down that connection.) “Lessons from the Gym”, where I overhear the physical therapy staff engaging with their clients. “Lessons from Hospice”, where I share the insights I gained in my five years as a hospice volunteer. “Life With Pet”, where I realized that accepting the foibles of silly pets teach me how to be a better human. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
The other big suggestion I have is, when you find these little, daily sources of inspiration, write them down. I keep a couple very small notebooks with me at all times, but sometimes I just use my phone to email myself. Maybe it would be even more efficient to keep them all in one notebook. (See that? I just inspired myself to do it better!)
This article originally appeared on my first blog site, Radio Userland, on October 27, 2004. Two things astonish me: 1) I don’t remember writing it, and I love it even more today. 2) I sound like Seth Godin!
I wrote a book on stamp carving for Lark Books a couple years ago. The oddest thing about the process was when it came time to do the photos for the how-to pages. The editor had me fly in to Asheville, NC to do the shots, and my hands would be in every photo.It was exciting, in a way, but stressful. I became very conscious of my hands and how they looked. They are very capable hands, but they certainly aren’t youthful-looking anymore!
For a full month before the shoot, I took extra good care of my hands. I tried not to chew on hangnails, I used hand lotion every day and beeswax every night. I scrupulously did cuticle care. I used tools instead of my fingers and avoided situations where a nail could be broken.
I remarked to my sister how important taking care of my hands had become. She told her husband later and he exclaimed, “Oh my God, it’s like that Seinfeld episode!” (Apparently George gets a chance to be a hand model and my obsession was mild compared to his.) Life, indeed, imitates art.
But my world got very small for that month. Every action and opportunity was considered for how it would affect my hands. It was a relief when the shoot was over and I could return to my normal, active, haphazard lifestyle again.
Why am I writing about hands today?
It occurs to me that we need to be careful of giving too much focus to anything that makes our world smaller.
Whether it’s our physical self, our emotional self, our spiritual self, our professional self, we need the focus that allows us to put our time and energy into our highest priority.
But in return, that investment should make our lives bigger somehow. It should enable us to connect more powerfully to the world, through our art, through our actions, through our relationships with other people.
After all, the book got published because of me taking advantage of an opportunity offered by a book editor. And because I created a relationship with her. And because I carve good stamps and make good work. And because she knew she could count on me to do a good job writing the book. And even more importantly, she knew she could count of me to finish it.
I wasn’t chosen because of what my hands looked like, but because of what they can do.
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