Inspiration Challenge 12: Revisit an old artistic medium

Inspiration Challenge 12: Pick up an artistic medium you haven’t touched in awhile.

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When I was cleaning up the other day I came across this Chinese saying written in some odd corner of an old notebook, along with little notes about the type of drawing I wanted to make out of it.  The saying literally translates as, “Take a step and look around,” which roughly means to take life one step at a time, or that life is a constant recalibration process.  My friend said this to me while I was in China, uncertain about the future and what direction to head with my life.  “It’s not as big of a deal as you’re making this out to be,” she was telling me with this phrase.  “Nothing is set in stone.  Try something out [take a step], then see how you feel about it [look around] and make adjustments accordingly.”

I think about this now that I’m several steps along from that initial conversation.  I’d taken several steps into a field I thought was a perfect fit, but when I took that larger step [an expensive one at that!] I discovered it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be.  So now, true to her word, I’m looking around.  What else is possible from here?  Three steps from here?  Five?  Where should I veer?

It’s similar to what Angela said.  It’s important to test our your dreams.  Make the first move, get to know them better.  In the case of this blog, I’m finding it’s a lot harder to develop my voice and a steady posting rhythm than I thought it would be.  I never realized it would be so difficult to write about inspiration, and to be honest, I’ve questioned whether or not I want to keep this up for another ten months.  I think I’ll do it, but I need to rethink this space and what I offer to the blogosphere that is different or interesting.  In the case of my professional life, I’ve discovering that I love the philosophy and approach of public health, but not necessarily the way that translates to the day-to-day work.

If I hadn’t started this blog, if I hadn’t gone to this program, I wouldn’t have known this.  Writing daily about wellness [in academia-ese I think of this as “building human capital”] would remain a dream, something to moon over in class as we talk about regression coefficient.  It would be my default pie-in-the-sky dream job whenever I got frustrated or disillusioned with school work, causing greater and greater hopes to be pinned to it until it became so bloated with unrealistic, grandiose expectations that it would be too daunting to ever try to pursue, lest the bubble burst and I discover I’m holding a frog, not a prince.  Likewise, these past 6 months have helped me pinpoint what, exactly, it is about this field that I absolutely love, and which surprisingly large segments are perfectly fine but now what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.  More than that, it’s forced me to reflect on my past jobs to find the underlying themes that gave me greatest satisfaction and which parts of the job burned me out, the types of tasks that I am drawn to, my strengths and my weaknesses.

Back to the challenge, I went through a “doodled abstraction” phase towards the end of college.  I’d take a concept and translate it into symbols or a Chinese phrase, then abstract the symbol, characters, and images and work it up over the entire page.  An example I dug out of the archives:

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This is my last name in Chinese, over and over and over again.  I haven’t doodled in over 2 years, so when I plucked the slip of paper out of the jar yesterday morning I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Finally translate that saying to paper.  Dust off the black pen and give it a go.  I’d put this off for days now, afraid it wouldn’t be perfect or that I hadn’t thought through the concept enough to get it down on paper.  And while this isn’t exactly what I envisioned, it felt really good to dip back into an old hobby, dust off the cobwebs an back towards once-familiar terrain.  And just as the saying says, you won’t know what you need to tweak until you make that first move.

Switching mediums for a day stretches creativity in new directions.  Fresh perspective generates new ideas, just like the change in perspective achieved by focusing on one sense.  This is particularly helpful when stuck in a rut, but even as a weekly or monthly exercise it works to keep our projects fresh and keep us exploring new directions.  And maybe, just maybe, we’ll take a step in a new direction, look around, like what we see, and keep moving.

Challenge 13: Research your hero.

Find out their life story.   What motivates them?  Where do they get inspiration?   What challenges did they face?  How did they overcome them?

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