Two weeks ago, when I rather flippantly said that I was going to Chicago to revive my creativity, I was surprised at some of the responses I got. There were those who thought Chicago was an odd place for me to find writing inspiration.
I beg to differ. Inspiration abounds in the city. At least, it does for me.
So, let me back up a bit. Hello, I’m Kathleen, and I’m wild about cities. I make the occasional trek into the great outdoors, like gardening and even write poetry about it, but my heart’s home has always been an urban area. I seek out bigger urban areas for the multitude of offerings there, for the human diversity, the always-on schedules, the option of eating dinner at 9 p.m. without worrying that the kitchen will close soon. I love the snippets of conversation that can be heard at a bus stop, in the market, on a train. I love Chicago for the possibility of stumbling on an outdoor concert in Grant Park on a hot Sunday evening in July or bumping into a film crew shooting on location (which we did – the next Transformers movie is being filmed on location in Chicago this summer). I love to watch little kids splash in the water from Crown Fountain, their shoes lined up along the low wall off to the side, their parents indulgent about this one summer thing that is fairly harmless. I love the moment when dusk becomes noticeable and street lights click on to illuminate a hot summer evening. And I love sitting at an outdoor cafe, a drink in front of me, people going by in all directions. This is inspiration. This makes me think about possibility, about creativity, about how we all interact and what gets our attention. To go out my front door and find all this makes me happy.
My muse, if I have one, is not quiet. She is not particularly sedate. Sometimes, she languishes in the garden, tired and in need of her own break. Sometimes she needs to hear the wind move through some desolate place without human presence. But, often, she needs to be among as many people as she can find and celebrate as many of their works as she can take in.
There are times, certainly, when a writer must be quiet. During revision is one of mine. When I’m critiquing someone else’s work is another. But when I’m generating something new, like this column, I listen to Rancid and sit at the kitchen counter. Then I go run errands while I think about what needs to be fixed in that first draft or whether it’s even a viable piece of writing.
Everybody has their quirks.
So, yes, Chicago was a perfect place for me to rejuvenate, to fill my well, as Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron might put it. Here’s another little quirk of mine: in a city that offers internet access everywhere, I chose to leave my computer at home. I did not check email or Facebook or LinkedIn. I did not even use Google Maps. I wanted the uncertainty that wandering around without an agenda or connections offers. I showed up in Chicago with my daughter and we said, let’s see what happens.
We were not disappointed.
DO A KIND THING
This week was incredibly sad in my neighborhood. A 12-year-old boy was accidentally killed in a park down the street on Sunday when a large rock he and a friend launched with a home-made slingshot hit him in the chest. I have been thinking about what it is to lose a child ever since. How do we support someone going through that kind of grief? Here are some links I dug up.
AAMFT Consumer Update Grieving the Loss of A Child
Pass this one to anyone who can use it.