Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


How to inspire yourself

Posted on November 19, 2017 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 19, 2017 – 12:00am

People often ask me what inspires me to write songs. I tell them that there have been some special songs that I was inspired to do. Songs about a peaceful revolution, and the birth of my first child were two of them. But not all songs I wrote had obvious or dramatic muses. In fact, many of them were not “inspired” works at all but something I just did because I needed songs to fill an album.

Many of them were melodies in my head that I made years ago and had set aside but then resurrected all of a sudden because they begged to be taken more seriously. Some of them I sat down on the piano and worked on with specific topics or feelings in mind. They were out-of-the-blue creations brought to life in a more deliberate manner.

The best ones were those that were written without fuss. They didn’t take long to write. Almost no pressure. I just followed the flow.

So what inspires me? The answer is everything and nothing.

What I want to actually write about is how anyone can be creative and write stuff even without the so-called inspiration.

Is that possible? Yes, it is.

One of the reasons why we have a hard time finding inspiration is because we always think of it as something that happens or originates from outside of us. In many ways, it is understandable that we see it that way. A beautiful girl comes along from out of nowhere. We get hit by a thunderbolt and fall in love and we feel a glow inside and see the world through rose-colored glasses. We feel so lucky and blessed — as we should. We feel that the heavens made it happen.

Drugs and alcohol can also make us feel “inspired.” Taking them can cause some to open their minds to images and hallucinations that take them out of the ordinary world and inspire them to think outside of the usual. The experience can be terrific and earth-shaking, to say the least. And it can spark tremendous creativity.

The problem with the first example I gave is that it does not come that often. Sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Life is not always that dramatic. And drugs and alcohol can give you that high, but it can also destroy you. We cannot rely, then, on these two types of inspiration to give us the ability to create when we want or need to on a consistent basis.

What if we try to think of inspiration as something that can come from anywhere — not just from the outside, but even from ourselves?

I speak of a mindset or a state of being that can transform the ordinary and the mundane into something extraordinary. This state of mind is aggressively playful, imaginative and creative that can “see” beyond what most everyone see. It is a mind that can connect what has not been connected yet. It is “conspiratorial” in the sense that it finds patterns, themes, relationships and stories where others might not see anything. One might say it is a mind that awakens to mystery and tries to capture its wonder. It is open to serendipity and sees more of it than most people do. It is both sublime and mischievous, sacred and profane.

You can learn and train your mind to be like this with practice and training. There are rules and methods to use and develop.

But you also need a few leaps of faith to be able to totally internalize this. The very first thing you need is to believe that what you want to create is already there.

Often, I look at ordinary things and events as portals that can lead to bigger experiences. There are hidden gifts to be picked up everywhere. Our job is to find them. From conversations, phrases, emotions shared, facial expressions, practically anything can inspire me and make a world out of it and express it through song.

American writer and potter Mary C. Richards hit it on the nail when she said, “Poetry enters through the window of irrelevance.” In short, nothing is irrelevant. Everything is important — that is, if we care to look closely.

The second leap of faith is about believing that God or the Universe is there to help you. The moment I focus on a melodic phrase that pops into my head, I feel an inner force at work that opens me creatively. My melody can go anywhere, but I feel some sort of guidance that is leading me to bring the song where it is “meant” to go. With regards to lyrics, it works the same way plus I can open a dictionary or a thesaurus to match words that rhyme. Assistance is there. Always. You just have to turn on your awareness.

There was a song I wrote for my daughter Erica when she graduated from high school. It talked about trusting yourself and finding your own path and truth. The lyrics in the bridge of the song went this way:

“Everything you need is inside of you. You’re the fire and breath of your own soul.”

What I really wanted to describe was our natural inner power, our built-in creativity to make anything, even to make our own future and create our own life experiences. While life happens to us, I believe we can make things happen, too.

This creative mindset applies not just to songwriting but to a lot of other things I do. And I know many creatives can relate to this. Magic, enchantment, creation of meaning is always at our fingertips. I know I make it sound so easy. Sometimes, it is that easy.

And with more practice, it becomes easier.

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