"Her 'scribbling suit' consisted of a black woolen pinafore on which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action." ~Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

My writing partner suggested we exchange lists of the things that inspire creativity in our scribbling and the things that hinder it. How do we feed the Muse (or, conversely and tragically, starve her)? I thought it was a gorgeous idea and darted off a silly little list off the top of my head. I decided to post it here in case it might be an encouragement (or a source of amusement ;)) to any of you other artists out there. Which, of course, is every one of you.

Helps:

~MUSIC. The Lord of the Rings soundtrack (I know, I am a dork.). Anything by Andrew Peterson. The Innocence Mission—pick an album blindfolded. The Finches. (old) REM. (new) A-ha. Vashti Bunyan. Kate Rusby. Mozart, particularly the Masses. The Anne soundtrack. Never fails.
~Beautiful and inspiring movies, like Chariots of Fire. (I’ve already said I was a dork.) Laughing till I cry over old Jeeves and Wooster episodes. LotR. A sojourn in Avonlea. “Bonnet dramas”.
~Playing classical music on the piano.
~Long drives with the music turned up LOUD.
~20 minute naps.
~TEA!!! ANY KIND!!!! (But especially, oh most especially, Sweet Lemon Cream Rooibus. And Yorkshire Gold.)
~Journaling. It’s like priming the pump.
~Long thoughts on long walks.
~Philip. Yes, of course.
~Talking to my sister. About anything.
~Talking to my mother and hearing funny stories.
~Daddy’s voice mails that begin, “Hello, is Harper Lee in?” (That makes me feel like I can do anything. Also, Daddy giving me a second-hand book on writing. Just because.)
~AP’s post today on The Rabbit Room. YES.
~Having a fresh encounter with Grace this week that makes me want to shout from the rooftops how great is His love.
~Reading Ray Bradbury on writing and remembering what wild fun it really is. “WORK! RELAX! DON’T THINK!!” Great stuff. (“You might give my method a try,” he cajoles. “If you do, I think you might easily find a new definition for Work. And the word is LOVE.”)
~Peacocks. They would wring poetry from the heart of a pile of bricks.
~Sunshine.
~Reading C.S.Lewis
~Circling for fodder. Like a kind-of amiable vulture.
~Letting my people say whatever they want.
~T.S. Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
~HER.
~Small bars of delectable, organic, bittersweet chocolate. My version of Jo March’s writing cap.
~Space heaters.
~The Flannery quotes my friend Jonathan Rogers keeps posting. Like this one: “Wouldn’t it be better to discover a meaning in what you write than to impose one?”

Hurts:

~Forgetting about the miracle of Grace that permeates every particle of my being. Even the creative ones. Trying hard to “be good”.
~Email. I once heard someone describe themselves as “the Amish of email”. Yep. That’s me.
~Hurry.
~30 minute naps.
~Too much caffeine.
~Untrammeled negative thoughts about how terrible my book is.
~Unwritten thank you notes and unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails.
~Cat hair. I’m serious.
~Being too cold and cranky and stodgy to get out and take a walk. Also being too busy.
~Thinking about Evelyn Waugh’s mastery with spiritual hints and symbols. Magic to read; disaster to compare to.
~Reading C.S. Lewis. 😉
~Forgetting to eat.
~Not ‘getting out of the way’ of the story. Trying to harass it into existence.
~Censoring my people.
~Not going to bed on time.
~Dishes in the sink.

I absolutely LOVE what Bradbury says about ‘ideas’:

“…I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash and idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies.”

So, what are your tricks of the trade? Do you write in fingerless gloves or compose symphonies in the middle of a church service or draw inspiration for your decor from the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites? Do tell. I’d love to hear what moves you.

And now I’m off to brew a pot of rooibus tea and get to Work.

I mean Love.