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  • Writer's pictureMelina Meador

Finding Your Way Out of Dullsville

It happens to all of us. We mean to stay inspired and we do, for a while. And then we get tired and suddenly we wonder, “Will I ever get that pep back in my step?” So how can we start each day with a sparkle in our eyes?

Author and podcaster Malcom Gladwell says that what makes an idea interesting to him is specificity. If he hears someone generalize, his eyes glaze over. But if someone talks about how bananas are harvested or how a teacher is making Latin fascinating to her 5th grade students, then he is curious. I think that is relevant to this discussion. Get specific and right up close to details and the drab colors brighten up.

Anne Lamott in her brilliant book, Bird by Bird, also talks about this idea within a writer’s practice, though I think it’s definitely applicable to all of life. She keeps a one-inch square empty picture frame on her desk. When she’s stymied and unsure of where to begin, she imagines that she can only write about what’s within that teeny tiny picture frame. It’s working from within a very strict parameter and it unshackles her from the vague and overwhelming everything. I love that.

Generalities and the everything that surround us are crushing. They demotivate. Details are funny. They are shocking. They can make us angry. Joseph says to his brothers, as they return from Egypt to bring back Jacob the patriarch, “Do not quarrel on the journey.” That statement is hilarious and ironic and bossy and the opposite of vague. That’s what I’m talking about.

Here are some things that help me when I’m unmotivated. I sound bossy, like Joseph. I'm ok with that. I'm the oldest of seven children, I can't help it.

Deadlines. Make a commitment.

Register for a 5k. Scare yourself into getting out the door to run. Imagine how terrible it will feel to have made that commitment and then to be passed by eighty-five year old ladies and four year-old children and pregnant ladies about ready to deliver. Or sign up for a writing contest and pay that entry fee and make yourself finish. Invite someone over for dinner or coffee that you don’t normally rub shoulders with. Commit to singing in the community talent show. You get the idea. Scare yourself into some kind of action.

Be flexible.

I feel most inspired when I am flexible and not holding too tightly to what I think inspires me. It changes, with time, and on certain days. So I like to get very interested in something specific, like reading Shakespeare plays, and then when suddenly I’m just dragging my feet to read one, I put it aside. I heard a woman say once that it’s ok to be flexible with ourselves when it comes to our own education because there are so many other areas in life where you can’t be. So just follow the spark. Sometimes that inner spark is a raging fire of excitement and enthusiasm, and other times it needs to be sheltered and fanned and babied. If it’s completely gone out, you’re going to need to spend time around people who have a large fire happening. The good news is, inspiration is contagious.

Make a change in your daily routine.

Buy some spicy lingerie. Eat all your meals in a different room for a week, or a day. Do something disruptive to the normal routine. I think this one really helps me. It’s like I am in complete auto-pilot and need to step out of that physical groove so that my mental mind can find some free space. Free space seems to be so important to rekindling the dying embers of inspiration. Serendipity happens when there’s space.

Change up your furniture.

I wrote about this and the chair that changed my life here:

Get out of town.

Harder to do? Yes. The rewards are worth it. I love getting out of town, especially all by myself. When I’m in Ballard near Seattle, which is my favorite spot to get away to, I can pretend I’m a fashion designer perusing street fashion for inspiration, or a famous opera singer visiting for three weeks from Estonia while I’m on tour with the Seattle Symphony. Probably I spend too much time in my fantasy, but it’s so much fun to look at the world from glamorous angles. I find that afterwards settling back into my true life is sweeter.

I hesitate to even write about this topic since I’m super motivated these days and I know that at some point I will need to take my own medicine. And yours. I’m hoping you’ll leave me some nuggets of help from your own experience. Thanks in advance!

Suggested Reading to combat Dullsville:

The Quotidian Mysteries/Kathleen Norris

Bird by Bird/Anne Lammot

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