Renewing My Creativity with a Little Help from My Friends: Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bob Dylan… and You

Please click this image to read the full newsletter.

I was very gratified how many folks sent me emails and notes in response to my most recent newsletter, in which I invited people to share what inspires their creativity. I’m reprinting the cover letter below and providing a link to the full newsletter (please click the image to the left), in the hopes that even more of you will share the experiences that helped you “reach deeper and wider” within yourself.

“A couple of weeks ago, I spent Wednesday evening wandering around the Philadelphia Museum of Art with a new friend, sharing some of our favorite works of art as a way to get to know each other. So we visited a few of my old “pals” — Cezanne’s Bathers, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Duchamp’s Nude Descending Staircase, the chapel-like room of Brancusi’s sculptures, and other works of art that are my current points of reference. These are among the artists whose pieces I visit when I need to be pulled outside myself, to find new paths into my own creativity.

“I crave the fellowship of artists, writers and all kinds of creative thinkers, the many who came before, as well as those who “walk” beside me. I need them almost as much as I need air and water and chocolate. The wonder of an exquisite painting, the pure sensuality of a joyous piece of music, an intriguing, well-crafted book, a dynamic conversation… it helps me see beyond my here and now, and inspires me to reach deeper and wider in my own work.

“But creativity and inspiration are everywhere, in the way we live, think and interact. All we have to do is seek it out. Often, I find it in an unexpected encounter, such as the chat I had the other day with a rather spirited woman who sat next to me on the bus. And sometimes it’s more structured and purposeful. For instance, the other week, I was having difficulty with a scene in my new novel. I found a way back to my initial inspiration for the book when I attended a lunchtime lecture on the author Toni Morrison at The Rosenbach library presented by Trapeta B. Mayson, Philadelphia’s poet laureate.

“One of my favorite sources is you… everyone I interact with, in person or virtually (via my blog, email and social media). Creativity can’t develop in a vacuum; we need the influence of each other’s perspectives and insights. What someone else sees in the crowds on Market Street can be as energizing as how Van Gogh saw a vase of sunflowers. So, please do share your ideas and visions with me [in the comments below or via the Contact page], and let us both be inspired by what evolves out of our fellowship.”

I’d be delighted to have you sign up to receive future newsletters. Of course, I will never share your contact information with anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you Toni Morrison… and Trapeta B. Mayson

Trapeta B. Mayson, Philadelphia's Poet Laureate, speaking about Toni Morrison at The Rosenbach
Trapeta B. Mayson

This past Tuesday, I attended my first Rosenbach lunchtime talk. The Rosenbach museum and library is one of Pennsylvania’s hidden treasures, though it is open to the public and is now affiliated with the Free Library of Philadelphia. The elegant Delancey Street double townhouse contains a remarkable collection of rare books and documents originally assembled by the Rosenbach brothers, famous dealers in books, manuscripts and art. It’s also the site of frequent public discussions, readings and lectures that fill the intimate rooms with interested and interesting people from near and far – such as the monthly lunchtime talks.

I didn’t know what to expect, except that the topic was one of my favorite authors – Toni Morrison – and the speaker would be Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson. I was sure that it would be a hour well spent. Besides, I needed to get away from my writing for a bit. I’d been struggling with the first draft of my new novel’s second chapter, and the more I fought the words – the more I wrote, edited and deleted – the more frustrated (and, yes, self-doubting) I was becoming. Perhaps, I had finally bitten off more than I could chew with this ambitious project.

"I never asked Tolstoy to write for me." Toni Morrison

Throughout the hour, Trapeta interspersed Morrison quotes and her own poems, a weave of words and ideas that illuminated the ideas she shared, until they shimmered with energy and life that could not be denied. She spokeRead More