What Lights Your Creative Spirit On Fire?

Flame_LisaHallWilson_WANACommonsToday I’m thinking about creativity, how we nurture it and how we express it.

One of the writing organizations I belong to is the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. As you’d expect, we talk a lot about books, creativity and writing.

Fellow WFWA member, Marilyn Brant, brought up a discussion a few weeks back that lit me on fire.

With Marilyn’s permission, I’m sharing “my moment,” and her words, with all of you.

For anyone who’s a fan of Sue Monk Kidd, I took a few notes on her speech in Chicago (April 2008). It was on “The Writing Life,” and she shared her words of wisdom for writers:

Discovering our personal stories is our spiritual quest. Your job is to become “the greatest version of the grandest vision you have for yourself.”

You’re called to “a place where your deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meet.” You must find the “necessary fire” that inspires your creativity.

Go Sue Monk Kidd! That woman had me at The Secret Life of Bees. Still, when I read these words from her talk,  I got that little jolt that says “pay attention.” Especially the part about “the ‘necessary fire’ that inspires your creativity.”

Isn’t that what we all seek?

To be able to tap into the words, the “grandest vision” within us…and share it in a way that touches a chord in others?

That’s certainly what I seek. And I’m always stunned by how much energy the journey requires.

One of the partners where I work sent me a link to an article in Forbes called 14 Things Successful People Do On Weekends. #3 on the list, after “spend time with friends and family” and “exercise” was “Pursue Your Passion.”

To sum the Forbes article up:

After you soothe your heart and care for your body, you need to take time to nurture your spirit.

Makes sense, right? But do YOU do it?? I’ll confess that, quite often, I don’t.

Yes, there were other things on the list of fourteen that I liked, but I loved the article because she nailed the top three things that everyone, particularly creative people, needs to remember. And she put them first.

So often we forget, in the rush of all we must do to survive, to nurture our souls. That’s really what allows us to “become ‘the greatest version of the grandest vision you have for yourself.'”

If you do not pamper your creative spirit, it will wither and shrivel away. Once this happens, it takes an astonishing amount of work to get that spirit of yours back in working order. At least that’s been my experience.

What lights your creative fire? What nurtures your soul, and allows you to share your gifts with others? Is it a place, a person, an activity? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!


Note: If you’d like more of Marilyn Brant’s words, please visit her blog and check out her books.

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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45 Responses to What Lights Your Creative Spirit On Fire?

  1. Laura Drake says:

    Great topic, Jenny. What i do is get OUT. I’m a focused writer (ya think?) with nose to the grindstone. I forget that writing does NOT have to be hard…if you can pull from what you see, instead of what’s in your head.

    Case in point. The Post Office line. You meet the oddest people there (do they needs stamps more often, than normal people?) Saw a lady there, with a tight, rayon flower-splashed sarong, slit up to HERE, clownish makeup, and BIG hair. No, I’m talking towerering – a foot over her forehead. At 9 am.

    You think she won’t end up in a book?


  2. Communing with friends and family, my sit-spot overlooking the mighty Atlantic, and Reiki light my creative spirit. Oh! And Seth Godin. He gets me all fired up. 😀


  3. Jenny,
    I’m so glad my notes from Kidd’s talk were inspiring to you! Listening to her speak that night made a huge impression on me — I really liked that part about finding the “necessary fire,” too. For me, I love the arts. All of them. So, listening to music or painting or dancing nurtures my creative side (plus, I need to get away from the computer for awhile!), and talking one-on-one with good friends always sparks my imagination. As does travel — a good excuse to go somewhere for spring break, right?! 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I love all those things, Marilyn, as they also get me going. There’s really nothing like reading when I need a quick pick-me-up, but the rest is spot on!


  4. K.B. Owen says:

    Hi, Jenny! Great stuff here – so glad you shared it with us! What inspires me? I’m not sure about specific inspiration – that seems to come from the strangest places – but in terms of general soothe/uplift, I find it’s being outside and doing things with dirt. I know, kinda odd, but I love gardening, and even in the winter if I’m outside on a sunny day, tilting my face to the sun, I feel ready for anything.

    Hope you’re getting inspired for Fast Draft! Rachel Funk Heller says that there’s a WANA class being offered in early April to get ready for Fast Draft. Should be put off our Fast Draft for another week and take that first? I could use a little more time for plotting.



  5. What lights my creative fire? Oh girl, you KNOW what gets my flame rising higher and higher ~ hanging out with zany writer friends! No, I’m serious. Being around other writers inspires me to be the best writer I can be, that doesn’t end on the page. It expands out to supporting them, nurturing if necessary, and challenging not only myself, but them as well. I love, love, love getting together with other creative types.

    There was this lady I know… she told me I needed to join RWA… turns out that was one of the best damn decisions in my life. For real. Love yas!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I adore this answer, Tameri!!!

      On RWA and OCC: that’s the way we roll!! One hand reaching forward and one hand reaching back in a continuous chain. You’ll drag in someone who needs it, the same as someone else did for me. GREAT organization.

      I get all fired up hanging with creatives too. It’s part of why social media has been such a blessing in my life.


  6. Jess Witkins says:

    I love Sue Monk Kidd too! I’m so jealous you got to hear her speak. Have you read Traveling With Pomegranates? She co-wrote it with her daughter and it’s amazing. She’s one of the most eloquent writers I’ve read I think.

    Great post, Jenny! I love all the energy and passion; you did go ablaze! 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, I *wish* I’d gotten to see her live, Jess! That was Marilyn, not me. But I’m so happy Marilyn shared.

      I haven’t read Traveling with Pomegranates yet. What a great title! And spread that fire along, Jess…spread it along! We’re gonna be like a big creativity candle over Ft. Worth in May. 🙂


  7. Hmm. What lights my creative fire?
    I’m finding that there are several things that feed me and all on different levels. One is spending time with close friends and family. Our off the wall conversations or reminiscences make for wonderful, and often hilarious, inspiration. Singing, especially in church…the right words can cut to my core and help simplify things for me. The last is everyone I’ve enjoyed interacting with on the blogs. So many awesome blogs trigger thoughts or ideas that otherwise might have gone untouched.


  8. Lena Corazon says:

    Great topic, Jenny. Soothing my soul comes from taking time out to binge-read, having quality time with family and friends, and journaling, especially with dip pens and ink. Reading and writing poetry, and returning to my favorite “non-craft” craft books is also a plus. Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind is a great inspiration for getting back to the basics of the writer’s life, and reminds me of the ways that I need to tap into my soul.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ahhhhh, the joy of the binge-read. Get those in now while you have the chance! That’s the #1 thing I miss about Life Before Marriage and Kids. That and easy pick-up-and-go travel. 🙂

      I love my life but I agree, a good binge-read is the BEST.


  9. Sometimes I just have to stop and read, so I can refill the word well that I keep draining. Audio books (a recent, new love) have helped me use non-productive time to do that. I listen when i’m driving, or while trying to drift off to sleep (when my mind tends to get too active for sleep!). Also mountains (miss them!) chick flicks, dance-to music, chocolate and Diet Dr. Pepper.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Fabulous list, Pauline! I keep thinking I should start listening to more audio books, in the car and such. I haven’t yet, so maybe you’ll inspire me. 🙂


      • I got an iPod Nano and I have some sleep head phones (headband, flat ear phones), and it love it for going to sleep. I switch to regular ear phones in the car. I tend to listen to mellow or soothing stuff to sleep. I have a hard time listening to a book I haven’t read, though. I’m a fast reader and I get impatient. I know its a bit whacky to listen to books I’ve read, but I pick books I really loved. Georgette Heyer novels, DE Stevenson both write gentle books and the narrators are pretty good. Right now I’m listening to the Lost Fleet books by Jack Campbell. Not as soothing, but very fun. I loved reading the books and am enjoying the audio. I will confess I listen to my books, too. It’s been fun getting them into audio and hearing my words read back to me by someone else is very interesting. 🙂


  10. zkullis says:

    Morning Jenny!

    What stokes my creative fire has quite a bit to do with the kind of creativity I pen. What I do tends to be dark and visceral. As a kid I loved to read books that made my heart jump out of my chest and had me checking under the bed. I read all of the dark and scary books I could get my little hands on.

    This developed into a fascination with the outré, the paranormal, the unexplained, and the occult with its dark rites and secret tomes. When you combine this with personal experiences and work experiences, I found a wealth of things to write about.

    My creative fire lit up a few years ago when I realized I was no longer content with traipsing through other people’s twisted imagination – I wanted to drag people kicking and screaming through my gnarly thoughts. I write to elicit a reaction, whether it’s a gut-wrenching reaction to something scary, or a protagonist so endearing and realistic that you would follow him/her into the pits of hell.

    My creative fire is kindled and stoked with darkness and depravity, fear and anxiety, the unknown and the things that make me jump. Sounds pretty dark, but that’s the way it is for me. When life is great, when all I see are roses and smiles, I sit back and enjoy it.

    But…. When things get ugly, when life gets dark, when I’m dredging through the depths of humanity at work, when I feel the breath of angst on the back of my neck, that is when my muse strikes.


  11. Sharla Rae says:

    Love this blog, Jen. We do often forget to nourish ourselves, physically, mentally and creatively. For the most part, if I take care of the physical and mental, the creative usually stays well oiled. There are times though when life’s stress is difficult to overcome.

    I’ve never been into the pampering bit with manicures, massages etc. But lately, I come to believe there’s a time and place for everything and sometimes letting yourself be pampered is a boost that pays forward in all three of the above areas. Then of course there’s always frivolous shopping. And Jen, you’ll love this — when I’m really down, I find that buying all new undies is immensely satisfying. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I sure hope you are getting some pampering in these days, Sharla. You need it more than ever with all the energy you’re expending!!!

      I love this line (as you knew I would): “When I’m really down, I find that buying all new undies is immensely satisfying.”

      *eyes glaze over undie shopping*


  12. filbio says:

    Great blog post. So many things inspire me and living in NYC is one of them. Get out and about for sure. Experience things. Travel. Look around. People watch. Exercise is the one thing I do to clear my head. These things get my creative juices flowing.



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I love NYC! I always have such a busy brain while I’m there. And the people there are some of the kindest and most real I’ve ever seen.

      I think if I could just have a big ol’ dance floor in my house, I’d enjoy the exercise part. But in general, I just want it to be “done already.” I’m working on it…


  13. tomwisk says:

    I can probably say I got bit reading Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Anne Dillard. Something about the rhythm of the prose pried something loose. I entered college and took creative writing. The instructor said I showed promise. Teacher-talk for “You need a lot of work”. Stuff happened dropped out. Didn’t get another chance until five years to take CW again. Worked on and wrote a short story (2,500 wds.) Won first place in writing contest. Was told I showed promise. Kept writing. Got an Honorable Mention (“You show promise” in contest talk) Took another course to hone skills, had an honest, straightforward instructor knocked me off the high horse that you’re on when everything you write is gold. Now I know gilt from gold but still an honest critique lights it up again.


  14. tonyberkman says:

    Reblogged this on 1,2,3 do.


  15. tomwisk says:

    Jenny, the first answer I gave was of the moment. I checked my e-mail and there was an article by Nora Ephron’s son. I’ve never tried linking to NYT. The article is in the magazine section writers should read it. It’s an example of what makes us go.


  16. I find that I am usually particularly creative after I’ve had a longer than normal (say an hour) of absolute quiet time. After I’ve been reading or driving or cooking and there’s no one else around. My mind tends to relax and that’s when creativity seeps in. I find myself actually wanting to put my book down or finish my meal so that I can get upstairs and put my thoughts into sentences and paragraphs and scenes.

    I love the quote from Sue. Great words to take to heart.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  17. I agree with Tameri. As you know, it is a rarity for me to be amongst other writers and I was so inspired Monday evening when our little group got together. I also am inspired when I read books by my favorite authors. Yet, I am really looking forward to less stress and more rest. I am hoping it will rejuvenate my creativity along with your post too! Thanks Jenny! 🙂


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  20. S. J. Maylee says:

    Lighting and relighting your creative spirit regularly is important stuff. Unfortunately it can be one that is easy to forget as we work away at our goals. One of the best things about having a 6 and 3 yr old in the house, they help me to let go and not take things so seriously. Taking a step back, a deep breath, and a hardy laugh are the simplest and best things we can do. Once my shoulders relax, I find lighting my creative spirit much easier and I do that by watching movies, reading books, hanging with friends, and dancing in my bodies way.


  21. Right now I have to say that getting more than 4 1/2 hours sleep would be enough to light my creative spirit. But when I can wrestle the insomnia monsters to the ground and choke the life out of them, I find that music, good books, and pretty scenery fuels the fire the most. I’m constantly on the lookout for videos to watch (think snowstorms), pictures to hang on the walls in my office, and others to save on my desktop.

    I’ve spend way too much time gazing at the waterfall scene I used on my blog (and wound up with an idea for a series from it). Then there’s the Thomas Kinkade winter print next to my desk, a really pastel painting of people walking on a beach at the turn of the 20th century, and a couple of others. Sometimes it’s just taking myself out of my environment, and ‘taking a walk’ through another world that will send me off and running with a great scene…or even an entire story. 🙂


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  23. Inspiring words, Jenny. Thank you for sharing. I echo Lena’s binge-reading. On my breaks at work, I read at least few pages of a good book. And on Saturdays I need few hours of (mostly) uninterrupted reading. Family and friends are really important but so is getting my introvert alone time. I’m a better parent when I fill some reserves all by myself. Thank goodness my husband understands that too. And I understand his need for the same 🙂


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