Route 1A: The Intricacies of Inspiration (Why Travel Matters)

As I begin work on a new novel, I am constantly eager for ‘inspiration’ to fuel my creative process (perhaps that sounds hokey, but all artists need inspiration or what is sometimes called ‘creative genius’, right?). While last week’s rainbow over my house (two days in a row, nonetheless) was certainly inspiring, how can we find inspiration without seeking it externally? Certainly, traveling outside of one’s comfort zone is sure to have a positive effect on one’s measure of ‘inspiration,’ so long as we remain optimistic and open-minded. But how can we take those experiences outside of our homes/selves and allow them staying power?

How the world can inspire us (a fisherman on Lake Malawi may be able to teach us something)

Enter an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Why Inspiration Matters‘ (as if we needed convincing). In this piece, cognitive scientist and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman explores the ways in which inspiration can not only positively impact one’s life (such as one’s career, relationships, and even ‘luck’), but also, and perhaps more importantly, the way in which we are all capable of fostering ‘inspiration’ daily. As Kaufman writes:

“This does not mean that inspiration is completely outside your control. Contrary to the view of inspiration as purely mythical or divine, I think inspiration is best thought of as a surprising interaction between your current knowledge and the information you receive from the world. There are things you can do to increase the likelihood of inspiration occurring. Research shows quite clearly that preparation (“work mastery”) is a key ingredient. While inspiration is not the same as effort, effort is an essential condition for inspiration, preparing the mind for an inspirational experience. Openness to Experience and positive affect are also important, as having an open mind and approach-oriented attitude will make it more likely that you will be aware of the inspiration once it arrives.”

Likewise, for the purposes of this blog, I believe that travel (whether locally or otherwise) is a fantastic opportunity to open one’s awareness to experience—everything from a new form of European architecture you’ve never seen before, to the spiciest curry dish you’ve ever tasted, to the surprising worldview of a Beijing taxi driver. So here’s my challenge: go out and explore the world, remaining open that the world may be right there waiting to inspire you and can continue to do so no matter where you’re sitting (even in that gray cubicle). And furthermore, share this inspiration with the world (and fellow readers): how/where do you find inspiration? Feel free to leave your comments below.

For more on inspiration, also check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on nurturing creativity:

Listen to what this Beijing taxi driver has to tell you...


About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
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