When was the last time something stopped you in your tracks and just amazed you?
When were you so intrigued by something that you lost track of time, lost track of everything, and just soaked up that thing?
When was the last time you were overwhelmed by wonder?
One of the things I loved most about Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic (and there were a lot of things to love!) was how she described the request of her creative soul: "More wonder, please."
I haven't thought much about that word, that idea. I tend to focus on inspiration, which is also a lovely word, but which is—for me at least—more cluttered with demands.
Inspiration means: one thing causes another. Right? This moment, object, or sensation generates an idea.
Which is very cool. Which is something we writers subsist on. Absolutely.
Wonder, to my thinking, is more simple. It doesn't have to cause anything except a feeling. It doesn't have to give you ideas and the energy to make them.
All it does is amaze you.
And maybe that leads to inspiration, and maybe that inspiration leads to work.
Or, maybe, it doesn't.
Maybe it just fills you up. Dazzles you. (Which is a nice feeling, by the way.)
Either way, I'm now convinced that it's one of the main food groups for artists. And that, the more wonder we soak up, the more creative energy we'll have for the art we create.
Wonder isn't a luxury.
Honestly, my first instinct with this? Is to just say: "That's nice."
That's nice. Good for you, wonder seekers. But I've got to be practical. I have deadlines and lists and stuff.
And besides, I don't always know what wonder is to me.
Better to just skip it and get on with repairing my outline, right? Better to just optimize my drafting process, right?
I'd think all those thoughts very self-righteously... and then go through a period of burnout, and not understand why. (Hm.)
But what if wonder is like taking a daily multivitamin for your creativity? What if it boosts your anti-writer's-block immune system? What if it actually fuels your inspiration?
What if it isn't a luxury at all? What if it's exactly what we need to be having?
The self-aware wonder seeker.
If wonder is the thing that fills up the well of creativity, and if it's part of that inspiration equation...
Then the question is: What astonishes you?
We owe it to our own creativity to figure out what that is. What are that paths you can take that you know will land you on wonder's doorstep? What is it that always yields a bit of amazement?
I have this feeling that it's gonna pay off for us big time if we can figure that out.
If this is a hard question, I totally get it. I'm with you. I actually feel like a complete novice with this.
So, I'm gonna learn from someone I've learned from my whole life.
My dad grew up in Nebraska—land of wild winters and scorching summers. And he has always modeled a wonder for the outdoors.
Great thing about the outdoors: It's big. Really, really, really big.
So it's a perfect starting point in our quest for wonder.
... Because there are so many things to choose from!! If oceans don't inspire wonder for you, go to the mountains. If mountains leave you flat [sorry, couldn't resist], look to the desert, the arctic, the Amazon.
Or, look up.
My dad taught my sisters and me about the stars. Even when we were little kids, he patiently showed us the constellations, teaching us the distinctive patterns to look for, and how they all fit together. He would train his huge telescope at the moon and let us stare at the craters 'til our eyes watered.
Once he woke us in the middle of the night, and we scrambled into our clothes and drove out to the middle of the cornfields so we could watch a comet smudge the sky.
I have big wonder roots in the stars... But I forgot about most of that.
... Until I was messing around with watercolors and looking for a new subject. I googled photographs of the planets on a whim—and was startled at how much amazement bubbled up in me.
Staring at their colors, at their immensity, and then dabbing a little version of them onto paper: I felt blown away. Definitely an experience of wonder.
So, if you've lost touch with this part of yourself, it might take a bit of exploring. Might help to figure out what moved you when you were a kid.
But however you get there, your creativity would love for you to know exactly what it is that dazzles you.
Always nourish wonder. (So that wonder can always nourish you.)
Now that we know it's vital, and now that we have some ideas of what works for us, we have to make it part of our artistic practice.
This is something that I personally need to do a lot more of: Seeking wonder on a regular basis.
Right? Because it needs to be replenished. What about: a taste of wonder every day. Just something small, like painting the planets. Or cloud gazing.
And then a really big hit of it on a regular basis. Maybe every weekend, or every other week: go for a wonder-seeking field trip. Finding a way to be astonished in a big way.
So what would that look like for you? How can you find five minutes to stare in amazement at something? Or to listen to some music that floors you?
And where could you go, or what could you do, to find wonder on a bigger scale?
Can we make the time for this? (Kinda like making time to breathe, making time to sleep...)
And then, can we pay full attention, just focus everything we've got on the source of that wonder, and let it fill our creativity up?
Mmm. I think this is exactly what I need to be doing. I would love a wonder-filled 2016.
How about you?
Don't know where to start? Take a cue from my dad. His birthday's this weekend, so why not grab some time to step outside and find some stars. That light's been traveling a long time just so you could see it: sit with that fact a while, and let it blow your mind.
What is wonder-full to you? What kinds of dazzling things are you exploring lately? Please share with all the lionhearts in the comments, so that we can rehab our sense of wonder together!