Sometimes, it feels like life fails to inspire. That’s when it’s time to go digging into your past.

Photo: kevindooley

How exactly do you define inspiration?

It’s easy enough to fall into the push and pull of everyday life, just trying to get through the day and hoping for the best.

Or, on another level – which I’m sure many of you can relate to – larger dreams keep you on course, slogging through hours on a computer at work, then maybe back at home on your blog, followed by being “social” via media just to stay in the race.

Inspiration sometimes (often?) gets lost along the way. Thing is, we all need that spark, at different times, at different levels. Sure, there is always a minimum fire burning somewhere inside, otherwise you wouldn’t get out of bed. Still, the larger, smack-you-directly-in-the-face-with-its-awesomeness needs to present itself and be accounted for to ease us out of those slumps.

Is that why so many of us travel? Does inspiration mostly come from getting outside of our little worlds, connecting with people of other cultures (even if it’s that culture just south of yours), throwing ourselves into new territories that beg our synapses to fire just a bit faster? Ah, the rush…it makes the drudgery of everyday life a bit more worthwhile.

What matters is that inspiration can come in the smallest forms, in the most obvious of places.

Maybe, sometimes, it’s worth taking a look back. I was amused by a piece on Boing Boing about a computer scientist who credits My Little Pony with leading her into the field of science. Although I’ve personally never made a connection between dolls and math, Sherry Turkle apparently spent hours as a child braiding the horse’s pink mane, dividing and subdividing the hair in order to create new styles (or, outcomes).

Was her life’s calling showing itself through playing with the doll, or was playing with the doll developing her skills? The answer doesn’t really matter; what matters is that inspiration can come in the smallest forms, in the most obvious of places. The recesses of our brains holds that first inspiration, even when we feel we are lacking.

Searching For My Own Inspiration

My inspiration – scary, but true

I had to dig around a bit in trying to recall my initial inspiration for writing, which ebbs and flows depending on what is happening in my life, what stories I’ve read (or not read), where my energy falls on a particular day.

Travel memories certainly stimulate my mind – I can easily go back to moments in Africa, where the Earth seemed to expand out in front of me like the never-ending drive through the dusty bush, or walking for hours around London, enjoying my anonymity as I took in the history my home country will never possess and eavesdropped on the accent that I covet.

I could go back even further to the first flight I remember taking to Germany when I was around four-years-old, the flight attendants “adopting” me (probably due to the curly blonde hair and blue eyes I had at the time), one holding me on her lap at the back of the plane and helping me with a puzzle game. I was out of my element, and happily connecting to the world through a new and exciting approach.

I was out of my element, and happily connecting to the world through a new and exciting approach.

But the reality is – and I can’t believe I’m actually going to write this so that it’s recorded for posterity’s sake – it was in fact the TV show, Full House, that first got me writing. Yes, the show that unveiled the Olsen twins, but it was in fact “D.J.” (Candace Cameron) on which I developed this huge friend-crush. I desperately wanted us to be best friends, and my inability to make that a reality inspired me to pour my heart out into a story about our adventures together.

I was so overcome with the desire to write about this fictional friendship at nine years old, that I had no other choice but to create. So sometimes, when I’m stuck with no inspiration, I do my best to visualize my way back to that place and that desire, because I know it still resides inside of me. That’s my own “My Little Pony.”

Now the question is, what’s yours?

Share your own inspirations, whether recent or from your childhood, below!

Community Connection

Over at the Traveler’s Notebook, Editors David Miller and Joshua Johnson are always coming up with inspirational questions and tips to keep you writing. And if you want to be consistently inspired to take your travel writing to the next level, check out MatadorU.