Content, Creativity, Image and Imagination

Creative Inspiration and the Gift-Giving Season

A year of freelance writing connections and social media curiousity ended with me foraging for wild greenery in wintry Pennsylvania and spellbound by a thousand stars high over an old church on the eastern coast of Maui. One journey prompted by a click, the other by a client. In neither case did I get there in body but at least both were a great ride for my creative spirit.

I like the feeling of being inspired by the creative energy of others – that rippling of some unseen force washing over me, roiling my self-regard and pulling me in a new direction. And ending the year with inspiration provides a timely push to start the new one with an expanded awareness of what matters most.

Inspiration is a gift and  free to give or get.  That exchange creates a fundamental bond, a connection based on pure emotion. a conjuring of creative spirits. When we’re inspired, we feel hope and want to change for the better. The opportunity is profound. (As a content strategist, I’ll add that every business should know what inspires their efforts and make that a key part of their message.)

The trip to desolate – but still fertile – Philadelphia came courtesy of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers, an organic flower farm that arranges offbeat seasonal bouquets for weddings. The NY Times profiled the company in an article about farm-to-table floral centrepieces along with this simple but affective video. The Times posted the video on its Facebook page just after Christmas which is how I got pulled into the story. Whether written or visual, storytelling is a compelling means to engage an audience about the layers of value resonant in any effort or product.  And emotional storytelling of whatever sort should be the centerpiece of any social media marketing campaign.

As it happens, this story woke up my lethargic winter slumber sending me out into the cold.

On a small parcel of “dwindling urban green space” Jennie Love pulls together a motley collection of natural materials – ornamental cabbage, hellebores, juniper berries, cedar branches. Whatever is wild and ripe that day. And not a single hothouse rose among the bunch. The video has an earthy texture – you hear the crunch of her boots tracking through a crisp snowy field and the greens feel even heartier against all that white. Appropriately, Love loves what she does. Her business is her passion. That emotional connection is very inspiring.

I think what’s at the heart of Love’s business – even more than style, beauty or even love – is authenticity. The truth in the land. I like what Love has to say in the video about the personal value she attaches to running a floral business dependent on nature’s changing conditions –

We lose sight of seasons when we just have ready access to flowers, produce, whatever it is. So  I think it’s really interesting to get back in touch with that cycle of growth. 

- Jennie Love

In the dead of a Canadian winter – shuttered away by the bitter rain and the wind howling through huge westcoast firs – it’s a nurturing reminder to know that life goes on, plenty of it, green and brown and good, no matter the harsh conditions. Prompted by Jennie Love way off on her Philadelphia farm, I was inspired through social media to head out on my own festive foragings. My deck garden had dulled since summer and needed an organic boost. More than that, the video made me think about the attentive care that should be shown to all the days of the year. There’s a thriving potential in every one and it’s up to each of us to seize it by the roots.

At the other end of the thermometer is Maui and the award-winning photographer Scott Reither. It was a privilege working with Scott this past year to find a stronger voice and truer message for his work. Scott has earned more honours at the International Photography Awards – 40 – than anyone else in the world but he’s remained humble to his craft. His photographs are remarkably beautiful. They hook you at first look. But it’ s not just his eye and his way with a camera that inspired me – it’s his conviction and way with a message that broke through. Or better put – it’s the soul of his emotions that gets captured in the film. That alchemical mingling of truth and technology is mesmerising.

In fact, that’s Scott’s aim. Using the expanded awareness of space that comes with long-exposure photography – that slow spool of time -Scott builds his images as agents for transformative change. He’s a tropical guru of good energy. It was enriching to hear about the way he approaches his work and the sensitivity he pays to the full experience of a landscape.

Reither is inspired by the writings of Eckhart Tolle and the challenge of opening a mind to awareness. I hadn’t read Tolle extensively so the project was doubly impressive. It made me more determined to be alert toward my surroundings. To be present in the moment. At Christmas, instead of rushing into the madness, I decided to slow down and let the meaning of the season sink in. Skip the malls and get into Stanley Park, Vancouver’s green gem. It’ a great place to take stock of what matters.

So Scott’s photographs led to an early winter awakening – and a great long walk.

Feeling inspired is a bit of a magic act. Who knows where that power comes from. It happens quick and can vanish just as fast. In a great Ted Talk, the writer Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)  speaks about how the “paranormal” forces of creativity and inspiration infuse us – or don’t. The idea is that everyone can have a genius moment if we’re sensitive and open to inspiration. No one is a genius incarnate (that’s too much of a narcissistic burden) but it calls upon us to be ready and willing.  As sponge and springboard for good energy.

In the video, Gilbert tells a charming story about how the poet Ruth Stone experiences inspiration –

“As [Stone] was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields and she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. It was like a thunderous train of air and it would come barrelling down at her over the landscape. And when she felt it coming – cause it would shake the earth under her feet – she knew she had only one thing to do at that point. That was to, in her words, RUN LIKE HELL – and she’d run like hell to the house as she’d be chased by this poem. The whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page.

Other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she would be running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house, and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it, and it would continue on across the landscape looking for, as she put it, ‘another poet’.

And then there were these times, there were moments where she would almost miss it. She is running to the house and is looking for the paper and the poem passes through her. She grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her and she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. In those instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact, but backwards, from the last word to the first.”


- Elizabeth Gilbert

In 2014, I hope everyone catches their train of creative inspiration and rides it for all it’s worth.

– b

Here’s the amazing photograph – House of Infinity – that Scott Reither composed earning him his 40th IPA. Genius.