Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

A few years ago I read The Right to Write, Julia Cameron‘s open invitation and initiation into the Writing Life. The book is designed to help you unlock your own creative channels and unblock the barriers to your own productivity and writing life. I really enjoyed the book and it certainly got the juices flowing. I’ve just unpacked it from my storage boxes and plan to reread it soon.

Of late I have been sifting through my old journals while working on my travel memoirs. I discovered a list I made when completing one of Cameron’s chapter-end “initiation” exercises. This activity was about unlocking happiness. Julia explains:

Although our negative mythology around writing tells us that writers are often depressed and tormented creatures, the truth is that too much torment and too much depression can make it as difficult to write as to make the bed, wash the dishes, do the laundry. To the depressed person, writing may present itself as one more chore. For this reason, we are actually working on our writing when we directly address the larger issue of our happiness.

List fifty things that make you happy.

Happiness is not only a mood. It is a decision. Writing our list of happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are, how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways. When the blues set in, the simple act of listing joys can help elicit some.

Here’s my list. The first 25 are from the list I wrote 5 years ago, the last 25 are from today:

1. A pohutukawa in full bloom

1. A pohutukawa in full bloom
2. Travel documentaries
3. Jane Austen novels
4. Writing
5. Xanadu (still the best film I have ever seen, by far)
6. Walking in the fresh air
7. My friends and family
8. Mangos
9. Singing along when Dad plays the guitar
10. Places with a heavy sense of history
11. People with hidden talents
12. Free summer concerts in parks
13. Laughing so much my belly aches
14. Wes Anderson films (for example, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
15. Finding toast left over from breakfast in the afternoon – mmmm, the strange deliciousness of cold toast
16. Kicking a rugby ball around in the park with friends
17. Avocado and tomato on 5-grain toast
18. Achievable busy-ness
19. Inspirational quotes

35. Bold, colourful tattoos

20. Soft rain – the kind that moistens your skin without getting you wet
21. The smell of sunblock on your skin
22. My friend Claire’s “do the dance of…” game
23. Playing pool with my grandfather in his snooker room
24. Vintage clothes
25. Seeing people in love

26. Writing (and receiving) old-fashioned, snail-mail letters
27. The smell of Queen of the Night
28. My friend Frank
29. A strong, black coffee in the early morning
30. Dancing Salsa and Bachata
31. Intimate conversations with strangers you meet while travelling
32. Having a job that makes a positive difference in the world
33. Pasteles en Hoja and mango milkshakes at Amable Restaurant in San Pedro de Macoris
34. Jorge Luis Borges
35. Bold, colourful, confident tattoos
36. Antique photos of strangers
37. Monkeys
38. Latin America and the Caribbean
39. Cougar Town (a very guilty pleasure)

49. Jump photography

40. Dancing in the streets
41. Riding in the back of pick-up trucks
42. Children
43. Ideas that almost hurt your brain to think about
44. Buddhist philosophy
45. Modern dance
46. Connecting with fellow writers through the blogosphere
47. Perfect, shining moments when you feel you might pop just at the thrill of being alive
48. Carrot cake
49. Jump photography
50. The number eleven

It really works! I feel better just thinking about those things.

What would be on your own list of happy things?


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I recently finished one of the most moving stories I have ever read – Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. Always fascinating, often moving, the book is captivating from the first line to the last, and I frequently found myself weeping (occasionally even crying out right) as I read (this was pretty embarrassing at times as I often read out and about in the world). I wept for the emotion, beauty, and sadness of the story. But it’s certainly not all sad, many of my tears sprung from the love (of nature, of fellow man) expressed by the tale.

Self-portrait of Chris McCandless - he died of starvation in this bus within weeks of this photo being taken

Into The Wild chases 23 year old Chris McCandless through his last two years on the planet. In 1990 McCandless walked away from his money, family, life, and possessions and wandered off into the world, travelling and adventuring about, meeting amazing folk, until he finally made it to Alaska two years later where he walked into the wild to live off the land for a few months and, due to a handful of bad decisions and unfortunate luck, starved to death.

Interspersed throughout the narrative progression are interviews with people whose hearts were touched by McCandless in those years, stories of other young adventurers who challenged themselves thus (some met with success, others with death), and a harrowing and inspirational account of the author’s own psychological and physical battle in his attempt to summit a daunting Alaskan peak.

What I enjoyed most of all was the angle of exploring one’s own humanity and the possibility for peaceful coexistence between human nature and mother nature. “Into the wild” is McCandless’ echoing call. My own is similar but instead of searching the great out there I hope to branch out into the wild interior of my own nature.

As an aside, I recently included the Sean Penn’s cinematic adaptation of Into The Wild in a post about movies to ignite your wanderlust. The film is magnificent.

I would argue that the book is even better. I loved it because it made me feel. I didn’t agree with everything McCandless thought, felt, said, or did but I admire him because he believed something strongly and acted emphatically on his beliefs.

Book Diva loved it too, while Lisa from Books on the Brain had mixed emotions about it and found it hard to relate to McCandless. This seems to be a book (and a character and a lifestyle for that matter) that polarises – you either love it or hate it.

Even the way Krakauer presents the story and examines McCandless seems to be contentious. On the one hand Erin Berman questions Krakauer’s objectivity, while Terrence Cantarella defends the book and says that Krakauer “has crafted a non-fiction book as inspiring, moving, and artful as the best works of fiction. He has offered up a real-world story of physical and spiritual escape, a bold tale of adventure, and a quest for something unseen.”

Have you read it? If so, I would love to hear how it impacted you emotionally and what you thought of it.

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You know you'd have pretty sweet dreams sleeping under this Origami scene

A while back I posted my first blog crush. Perhaps it’s time to promote another rare treasure through the blogosphere.

My latest blog crush is Milk + Honey. The blog description says it all: because life should be overflowing with all things good and beautiful. What I love about Rachel’s blog is that it celebrates the beauty in the tiny details of life and the magic in the overlooked.

My favourite recent posts include:
– The confession of love for a stranger
– A celebration of the ancient art of origami, and
Remembering to breathe and relax


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I have an announcement to make and I will have to respectfully request that you all contain your excitement.

I finally have internet at home again. Woop!

Kevin had a dream, and so do I...

It has been a long, cold winter without any digital entertainment to amuse me and I am pretty excited to be back up and running. Given that it is a rainy winter’s evening (as are most of late) I am thrilled at the prospect of wiling the hours away, warming my fingertips on the keys and such… now I just have to wait for profound slash interesting slash mildly amusing thoughts to come to me… but I am an optimist and, taking Kevin Costner’s lead, believe that if you write it, they will come…

I have a feeling that a frenzy of posting may follow. Brace yourself people.

How has everyone been, by the way? It’s been a while.

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I love interacting with my favourite books

It’s confession time. Warning: you might not want to read what I’m about to write. Ready? I like writing in books. I underline passages, write questions to the author, scribble my own reflections, and sketch symbols next to amusing parts, lines that have moved me, or remarkable ideas.

Many people feel funny about writing in books, believing it to be a kind of desecration. I respectfully disagree. For me, writing in my favourite friends is a way to enter into dialogue with the greats, a way to personalise the reading experience, and to convert my books into treasures I will hold onto for a lifetime.

Does anyone else write in their books?

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In a similar vein to an earlier post about books that get your knees knocking for adventure, let’s consider some films that evoke the freedom of the road, the wonder of nature, and the thrill of adventure. Here are six films that will make you wish you were richer than Bill Gates and could just spend the rest of your life travelling:

Baraka was filmed in 24 countries

1. Baraka (1992, Planet Earth)

This is the movie to see if you are even remotely interested in, well, life. If you have a passion for travel, photography, the natural world, or cultures then this film will probably have you mesmerised.

Read a review of Baraka by Eric Young.

2. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004, South America)

I watched this the night before I flew to South America to begin my own adventures, so it naturally resonated with me. While it is interesting to watch the social awakening in the young Che Guevara, and I defy you not to get a little misty during the river-crossing scene, it is the backdrop of mid-century South America – her landscapes, people, suffering, and beauty – that is the real scene-stealer.

Read a review of The Motorcycle Diaries on Ainulindale.

3. Into the Wild (2007, USA)

Directed by Sean Penn, it has been called his “love letter to America.” The film follows the travels of twenty-three year old Chris AKA Alexander Supertramp who finishes college, donates his life savings to Oxfam, and drives to Arizona where he parks in the desert, burns the money in his pockets, and walks off into the wild, determined to be alive in the world and, ultimately, to live off the land in Alaska.

Read a review of Into the Wild from sitting in the dark.

Peter Jackson's epic trilogy put New Zealand on the map

4. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002 and 2003, New Zealand)

Something like one third of tourism in New Zealand these days is a result of people watching the Lord of the Rings and being floored by the scenery. The Tourism NZ department has joked that it was a 9 hour advertisement for the country. It’s pretty stunning.

Read a review of Lord of the Rings by JonnyB.

5. 3-Iron (2004, South Korea)

This film is a real charmer, although it has neither epic landscapes nor postcard picture scenery. I just remember being so interested in all the tiny details – what the apartments were like, the streets, the clothing – and determining to visit South Korea (I still haven’t but I’m still determined to).

Read a review of 3-Iron by Marcello.

6. Pride & Prejudice (2005, England)

For those Jane Austen fans among us. If you are loyally partial to the BBC adaptation don’t worry, Kiera Knightley does a better Lizzie than you’d expect. T he scenery in this film will make your heart pound and your breathing shallow (as will the sight of Mr. Darcy walking through the rain towards you). A guilty pleasure that will have you checking our airfares to England on Expedia.

Read a review of Pride & Prejudice by Katherine Cox.

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Jane Austen moment: walking out from beneath dripping trees into a mist of late-afternoon drizzle. A foggy horizon of trees and barren shoreline is just visible behind the soft emerald glow of rolling meadows.

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