Contribution to the book "VOICES"

This piece was included in the recently published book 'Voices, a collection of inspirational stories from British Columbians. I thought I'd post it here...
Now back to recording!

This simple question of "what inspires me?" has been surprisingly and intriguingly complicated to answer. Assuming the question is being put to me as an artist, I could cheat and distill it down to "life" which includes all the complexities of being human: death, love, heartbreak, beauty, birth, struggle, pain and joy... all that we experience. But that's not really fair. I could tell you that nature is the most reliable source and is what I turn to every day to trigger that sense of wonder and awe that nurtures my creative side. In fact, I can intentionally take a walk in the woods with a new song in my head and reliably come home with a treasure of new lyrics. I could tell you that the simple act of looking up rewards me every time - the sky and its ever changing clouds and light, the trees, a flock of birds, the tops of buildings where the most interesting and whimsical architecture waits to be noticed. (Try it! It will delight you almost every time.) Sometimes I joke if I'm in a writing slump that I may have to break up with my partner or fall in love (or both!) in order to exploit the most reliable sources of inspiration we seem to have as humans. But in the merciful 10 - 20 year spans between such drama, listening to music never fails in its power to exalt my spirit, in a way that is truly unparalleled. 

What inspires me to create and what inspires my spirit are two different forces, though there is a place they converge in the creative process. I have never been a tortured and driven artist, compelled to create in spite of myself. As unromantic as it sounds, I would describe my need to create as a hard wired to my self respect and a continued life as an authentic artist. However, once I surrender to the muse I realize that what is really required of me is to be awake; to be conscious; to have my receptors on. When I am in that state, all of my experiences are enhanced by my senses, particularly sight. In my most creative periods I need to carry a camera and a recorder with me wherever I go to capture it all. I wish I could say I live in this state constantly. But no, it is a state I impose on myself after weeks, months, and sometimes even years of avoiding surrendering to it. Why? Perhaps it's because, along with the requirement to be acutely conscious in order to receive the inspiration, it also demands mining the depths of the most inner, sometimes confused and yet to be analyzed, thoughts, feelings and experiences; to be ruthlessly honest and vulnerable. As a perennial hedonist, this is not a state I'd call fun or pleasurable! However, the rewards are tremendous, in every sense. All I experience in life, through relationships, family, and random encounters, hovers inside waiting to be translated into song. And in times of pain, loss, sadness, heartbreak and great love and joy, I am unceasingly grateful to have a creative means to transform that human experience into the exquisite medium that is music and words. Just one haunting chord on the piano or guitar or dulcimer can evoke a surge of undefined emotion to me. And it is at that point that something divine happens - when I stumble upon that unidentifiable mysterious place where "it comes". Those moments of pure inspiration are mystifying, exquisitely precious and the holy grail I spend my life seeking.  

And then there is the person who receives it , hears it, and relays to me that it has meant something to them. 

That is the sweetest inspiration of all.  

Julia GraffComment