Today's guest post is from Joan Lambert Bailey, an American ex-pat who lives, gardens, and writes in Japan. We're trading blog space today, so be sure to go out my post on her blog, too!
Jack London famously said of inspiration that it couldn't be waited for, but that it had to be chased down with a club. I prefer to think I wield weapons more enticing, but when a deadline looms I give that club some serious consideration.
My inspiration, more often than not, comes while I'm working at the farm or in my garden, weeding between long rows of komatsuna (a leafy Japanese green) or edamame seedlings, marveling at the critters running to and fro as I lift purslane, sugina (horsetail), lamb's quarters, and some nasty prickly vine from the soil. Recipes take shape as I thin carrot seedlings or harvest yet another over-zealous zucchini. I fish a notebook and pen from my pocket (inspiration on a farm requires old school technology as dirt and new school tech don't mix!) to jot down what my Muse mumbled just before she dashed into the bean patch.
There are moments, though, when there is no inspiration despite a looming deadline. An article needs to be written or a blog post generated, and rain keeps my notebook in my pocket, me at my desk, and my Muse napping. As any writer knows, it is these moments that result in sleepless nights, a bit of hair pulling, and the occasional bout of over-snacking. It is then that I turn to a handful of favorite remedies to see what I might find.
- My pictures. I often take more photographs than I use on my blog or for a given article. My computer is full to overflowing with flowers, bees, rivers, leaves, vegetables harvested and on the vine, assorted foods, and other people's clever gardening or cooking ideas. Reviewing them often jogs loose a memory of an idea, and I'm off!
- My bookshelf. I occasionally receive food and gardening books for review from publishers or writers, and, of course, I pick up one or two that strike my fancy. Feeling the heft of the book in my hand, turning the pages to review my notes, or re-reading an ear-marked page reminds me of what was so intriguing in the first place. This usually results in a trip to the garden or kitchen to start experimenting, photographing, or taking notes for the article I'd forgotten I wanted to write.
- My journal. I set aside about an hour each morning before the rest of the household wakes up to sit down with pen and paper and write whatever comes to mind. What begins as a mundane “Yesterday at the farm we...” rolls out into a stream of consciousness that lets me wander again through the day and the thoughts that crossed my mind. Often I end up connecting ideas and actions, sorting out new questions to research, or remembering a conversation to quote later. Especially when I'm traveling, my journal helps me capture every impression of a market, every feeling or taste so that I can mine it later for an article, essay or blog post.
- My run. Even if rain keeps me out of the garden, it won't stop me from putting on running shoes and splashing my way around the neighborhood for thirty minutes. Plants don't appreciate being handled when they're wet, but I'm certainly none the worse for wear. A good run (or walk if it's not a running day), hike, or quick trip to the gym helps get creative juices flowing again.
- My local haunts. Like running, a change of scenery and a bit of conversation can jar ideas loose or even plant a few, too. Chatting with Nakagawa-san at her onigiri shop over a yummy lunch set of her handmade onigiri (rice balls usually wrapped in seaweed with something delicious in the center), steaming miso soup, homemade nukazuke (traditional Japanese pickles made with rice bran) with good strong green tea results not just in new vocabulary, but often in some thought-provoking conversation, a recipe, or just plain old relaxation that lets me return to my desk with fresh eyes.
Where do you find inspiration for your writing or other creative work?
Joan Lambert Bailey currently lives and writes in Tokyo where she is lucky enough to get her hands dirty at a local organic farm. You can read about her adventures learning about Japanese food from seed to harvest to table at Japan Farmers Markets or join her on Twitter.