By Brenda Riojas, I Start Wondering Columnist
What a gift we honor ourselves with when we live fully in the present. With so much happening in our lives, we don’t often think about looking back at the history that brought us to where we are in this moment.
However, when looking for creative ideas, I find it helpful to take a step back in time. A return to the past allows us to:
- Study our personal history, possibly gleaning something new;
- Give new life to an unfinished project; and
- Identify anything that may be blocking our creative process.
History matters. When we return to our past, we do so with new eyes. We bring a new perspective. We have new life experiences to use for exploration. Imagine what you might find reading through an old journal or looking through a photo album put away in a closet or on a shelf in your home. Inspiration is waiting there for your attention.
I have a stack of journals, boxes of notes and countless photos I want to revisit. I keep hoping for some time, but I realize that unless I make an effort, countless ideas remain in wait. As I consider this, I am more motivated to take them out and see where they will take me. Already I can anticipate some new poems and stories.
Don’t disregard all that came before now. Naturally we are drawn to the new, but I urge you not to be in such a hurry to discard anything that may tell your history. Old letters, journals, notes hold untold nuggets of ideas. They could provide a link or serve as a springboard to new ideas. In the present, pretend you are an archeologist. Maybe something is ready to be rediscovered and given new life.
Go Find Your UFOs
In quilting we call an unfinished project a UFO (an unfinished object). I have half a dozen quilts that I need to finish, hundreds of photos to organize into scrapbooks, poems and stories that need editing, some waiting for a conclusion. Think of the projects that you have put away.
When we return to a project that once held our interest, it may reawaken the muse. Maybe now the project is ready for completion. Or maybe we are ready to utilize our present-day skills to build upon what we started or to take it in a different direction. In Spanish there is a saying – todo en su tiempo, which means everything in his time.
Find the Ghosts, Slay the Dragons
Studying our personal history might help us discover something that is blocking our creative spirit from taking action. It could be a memory of an experience, a stalled decision or an excess of things we can’t let go of related to our past.
In my case, I realize I have been putting off what to do with my father’s home. I keep telling my sister I am going to do something about the house. However, until I set a timeline and take action, I am not entirely free to focus on my writing and other creative endeavors. An untended task, if we are not careful, can act as an anchor and keep us from moving forward in our creative lives. Identifying the anchor helps us move forward.
What in your past is holding you back from what you are working on now? What UFOs can you revive? What can you learn from your personal history that could help shape a future project or help answer a question that has been puzzling you? Taking a step back in time can help us gain clarity on the present and inspire us as we learn from our unfolding story.