Friday, May 28, 2010

Where Does It Come From?

It Was a Dark and Storming Night, 2009

Inspiration, that is.

Someone asked me the other day where the inspiration comes from for all these blog posts.

If you’d asked me a year ago when I started this blog—today, by the way, is the one-year anniversary—I would have told you I intended to use this blog to tell the back stories of pictures from my archives. All it would take for me to get started would be to pull out a picture and talk about it.

But if such a grand thought seems simple when you first have it, it weakness becomes visible over time. Although I have thousands of pictures in the archives, pictures that had interesting stories petered out after a while. Or so I thought.

A year ago, I was, to be completely honest, unsure how long I could sustain this blog. I’ve been posting pictures almost daily at Fotolog and Flickr for seven years. But it was a real personal challenge to do this What I Saw blog. I didn’t know if what I was embarking on could be the basis of a book or whether it would just be a place for me to let my eyes and thoughts wander. So far I’m still wandering.

Most of these blog posts run between 500 and 600 words. That means that over the last 263 posts I’ve found 143,000 words, give or take, that I didn’t know were in me. They aren’t great art or literature, most of them. But as long as the idea burble up, I’ll keep doing it.

But to get back to the inspiration thing, I work the same way a writer works. I’m not so disciplined that I get up at 5:00 a.m. each morning like one friend and write for sixty minutes. But I do try to make a little time each day to work on these posts. It’s therapeutic in that it distracts me briefly from work and other things. I like my work, but even if you’re thick in work you like, it’s useful to give your mind a little mental sorbet from time to time. Once I train my mind to be on the lookout for inspiration, it usually isn’t too hard to find something to talk about.

Sometimes the pictures inspire the writing. Sometimes the writing inspires me to look for a picture that complements it. Sometimes a random mix of words from a dream will inspire something (like yesterday’s mention of the dream-induced name Chappy Ptoole Syrigian). Or I’ll hear someone say something that inspires some thought on my part, like this quote I heard the other day attributed to playwright Tom Stoppard:

“Age is a high price to pay for maturity.”

When all else fails, I go back to the original premise, using a picture as a starting point. When I don’t know where to find the picture, I used a random method for picking one. I don’t require myself to write about the picture I select, only to be inspired by it. If I’m stumped finding inspiration in a picture, I’ll close my eyes and open the dictionary and see where my index finger settles. I’ll pick a few words that way and see what they inspire.

The bottom line is that there’s almost always something that will provoke a thought or memory. Always.


  1. Congrats on your blog's first birthday, Chris! Your photos are beautiful, your writing so easy to read. Looking forward to many, many more ...

  2. Happy birthday, "What I Saw!" I've enjoyed every entry--hope you'll have many more!

  3. I love the writing in these blogs. Clear, imaginative and sometimes zany, or even profound. Little pretension. It doesn't get any better. And I like the personal comments, such as today's when you share how you go about it. Never know what to expect. I think I'm trying to say I like it. Happy Birthday!

  4. Happy Anniversary! I love reading your musings. Keep it up.

  5. A year? Wow. It seems no matter how hard I try, I cannot slow time. On Wednesday I turn 40 and cannot fathom what happened to the time. I can remember conversations from college like they were yesterday instead of 20 years ago.

    I've caught myself wondering how you find the discipline to do this every morning. I'm glad you do because, even though I may not read every single one, or even comment on all the ones I read, I always leave your posts in a better place than I was before I read it. They often remind me of situations or offer insight to thoughts I've had. In essence, you are my inspiration and I thank you for that.

    Congratulations on your first year!