If you’re running dry on creative amniotic fluid, or if your superpowers have been overshadowed by the ordinary, or if the hectic days and sleepless nights have managed to unplug you from the the warm and quiet cosmic room where we all meet to recharge and whisper to each other… come closer.
I often say that Inspiration is the most contagious disease and the one good virus you absolutely need to catch. Because it is the only unguarded way to your heart — where real transformation can begin. The mind can understand but it can’t move a finger without your heart’s permission. You can be convinced about something, but not converted. You can accept, but not embrace. You can like, but not love.
Inspiration melts down your ice blocks, finds a way through your thickest walls, unlocks the doors you don’t have a key for, and it helps you go beyond just believing and into your becoming. It’s the only way to affect, change or save any free-willed creature.
So let’s get high on it for 15 minutes.
Here are 31 of my favorite musings from wisdom parents and heroes: an intentional shot of creativity into your aorta, tiny bites of Renaissance to post on your vision board, great little ahas that have stuck with me and made my heart sing and clap at one moment or another. Because sometimes this less is more.
The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.
— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
The first step — especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money — the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.
— Chuck Palahniuk
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
— Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Complement with Kurt Vonnegut:
I wish we had all been born birds instead. (Hocus Pocus)
Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. Wherever you are, if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
— Cecil Beaton, The New York Years
Cherish your vision, cherish your ideals. Cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.
— James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
— Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has his eyes if he is a painter, or his ears if he is a musician, or a lyre at every level of his heart if he is a poet, or, if he is a boxer, only his muscle? On the contrary, he is at the same time a political being, constantly alert to the heartrending, burning, or happy events in the world, molding himself in their likeness.
— Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh: The Life
It is a mistake for anyone to think he has lived too long in his old, unsatisfactory ways to make the great change. If you switch on the light in a dark room, it makes no difference how long it was dark because the light will still shine. Be teachable. That is the whole secret.
— Vernon Howard, The Power of Your Supermind
— Rumi, The Essential Rumi
This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers this morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth, what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you might find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something will eventually happen.
— Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon seem inevitable.
— Christopher Reeve, Nothing is Impossible
Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.
— George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or old laws will be expanded and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with license of a higher order of beings.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.
— George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now!
A ship in harbor is safe. But that is not what ships are built for.
— William Shedd
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
So here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not, ‘This is a misfortune,’ but ‘To bear this worthily is a good fortune’… If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
— Apple Ad, 1997 | Steve Jobs
Can you believe in a future you cannot yet see or experience with your senses but have thought about enough times in your mind that your brain is actually changed to look like the experience has already happened ahead of the physical event in your external environment? If so, then your brain is no longer a record of the past, but has become a map of the future.
— Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.
— George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
— William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze
Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.
— Leonardo DaVinci, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day
Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.
— Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.
— Henry Miller, Henry Miller on Writing
All of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout form the heart — perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakable public example — but authenticity always and absolutely carries a a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent.
— Ken Wilber, One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spiriuality
The speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.
— Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing.
— Jack Kerouac, The Portable Jack Kerouac
You can open your eyes now.
You’re not alone, there are hundreds of us. You just can’t hear us unless you quiet your mind and let your heart speak in that kind, ancient language we were all born knowing. The one that sounds like home.
So have some faith and go make something worth remembering.
S.O.S. — ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READINGS FOR CREATORS IN TROUBLE: May hopefully enlarge your creative aorta and forever alter your mind.
*According to some, this quote has been misattributed to Goethe by William Hutchinson Murray. Original author, unknown.