A couple of months ago, when I was feeling particularly stuck in life—just after surgery, still blurry and mentally fogged from everything I was struggling through, not least the after-effects of surgical anaesthesia—a friend suggested that I already had the resources to get myself unstuck. I just needed a way to remind myself how to do that.
One obvious means, of course, was just to keep writing music—I was in the middle of the recent commission, then—and making art, etc. Being creative every day became a literally life-saving activity. To the point, now, when the commission is done, and I'm looking for new projects, that I'm having some anxiety about my future again, simply because I don't have a clear long-term project to do right now. I have to find one, or make one.
Actually, a couple of smaller projects, after a large project, are not a bad change of pace. Yet I'm stirred up, emotionally, these days. I feel a little lost at sea, and that creates anxiety. I find myself needing something to focus on, so that the voices of fear for the future don't hover so close.
I've begun to write some other songs, but with no clear deadline it's too easy to set them aside for days at a time, and neglect to work on them. It's too easy to feel rudderless. And because my creative work is what's mostly giving me a reason to live right now, being rudderless is scary.
So my friend and I came up with the idea of making myself a set of customized Inspiration Cards.
There are small cards in a bowl that you pull out at random. They contain ideas. They contain suggestions about things to do. They contain commentary on keeping life in perspective—attitude adjustments, if you will. They are reminiscent of, and indirectly inspired by, the Oblique Strategies cards co-created by Brian Eno. Eno's ideas have often inspired me, shaken me loose, and got me moving again; they are a breath of fresh air. My Inspiration Cards are a sort of personalized version of cards that get you unstuck, full of phrases and words that I need to say to myself, to get myself ground and moving again.
I haven't been counting how many cards I've made. I keep adding to the bowl when new things to write down come to mind. The Inspiration Cards currently live in one of the papier-maché art bowls I made earlier this year; my plan is to make a larger customized bowl for the cards, where they will live more permanently. Something hand-made seems appropriate. Maybe I'll write other messages to myself on the bowl. At least very least, it will be something to inspire me, too.
Here's what a few of the cards say, in random order as pulled from the bowl:
Why are you resistant to grace?
Make a movie
Be outrageously sexy
All is forgiven, move on
Laugh or cry (laughing is better)
The piano has been lonely
So, we have a mix of practical suggestions of activities to do, spiritual advice, reminders of things you already knew but have overlooked in the midst of your mind-drama, and permissions given to stretch outside of the usual limits and boundaries.
I see several ways to use the Cards that I haven't tried yet, too. Some Cards contain familiar wisdom, restated in my own words, but nothing new. Others are meant to shake me into thinking about life from a new direction, a viewpoint outside the usual. I could use the Cards for guidance in situations that are in flux (when are they not?), as one uses the I Ching. I could use the Cards for assembling a daily practice of mindfulness. And so forth.
The field is open-ended.
I could see each person making their own customized set of Inspiration Cards for themselves, attuned to their own situations and needs. if you were to make a set of Inspiration Cards, what would you put in the bowl? I think there are many possibilities. The only guidance I would render is to make sure to include a few Cards designed to stretch you, to invite you to do things outside your comfort zone and usual habits and patterns. Breaking out of whatever box you usually find yourself in is itself a major source of inspiration and renewal.