People often ask me how I know what to write about – where I get my ideas from. My response is generally a shrug because the creative process is difficult to put into words. But in actuality, most of my ideas come from Bob Dylan.
Well, maybe not Bob Dylan specifically, but this picture of him definitely inspires me:
I came across this album cover at a church garage sale in 2006 and bought the album for $1 just to get the cover. This was around the time when I was experiencing a revival of sorts in my desire to write. The album was crammed in the back of a stereotypical dusty crate that I’d felt compelled to rifle through though I didn’t own a single vinyl album. Bob’s brooding face peeked out at me over the parchment like-background of the cover, and I was sold. I bought the album, promptly disposed of the record, and hung the cover on the bulletin board above my desk. Bob Dylan was officially my muse.
There was something about Bob Dylan’s brooding face that drove me in those initial months to write my “pieces” as I called the short, personal essays that I wrote. When I was stuck in the middle of a sentence or grappling with seven wrong words, or fed up with my inability to express what was foremost in my mind, I would gaze up at Bob, and eventually find my way again. Silly? Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
There are things that inspire us for all kinds of reasons. Whether it’s a picture of first light, or spying the sweet unobtrusive marriage proposal in the library of Congress, or the one line of a song that you can’t get out of your head (listen to me, you’ve been lonely for far too long). Sometimes it’s the bubble of laughter through a window pane or a glimpse of the full moon on a cloudy night. I capture these sparks, these vignettes, these spurts of dialogue in notebooks, on Pinterest, and even in the margins of my favorite books.
The place where you store and curate the information that inspires, excites, and even teaches you is known as a commonplace book and has been used to inspire artists for centuries.
I call this process feeding the muse. Even Bob Dylan’s got to eat sometime. You may not be actively focusing on the topics in your commonplace book, but your subconscious is aware of those things and it’s brewing and stirring them until they’re ready to come up to the surface. I started a tumblr site as an electronic commonplace book to capture all of the little (and big) things that have been inspiring me and sparking my creativity as of late. Check it out: www.pureloveable.tumblr.com
Bob Dylan still hangs out on my bulletin board– only this time above the armchair in my bedroom vice my desk. He continues to moodily gaze at me, telling me with his eyes: don’t you dare give up. And he still inspires me to keep on writing. Here’s to keeping your muse well-fed.