Last year I wrote a piece about finding the inspiration for writing, and I made reference to Marie Condo's idea of asking if something sparked joy. I received some good feedback on that piece, and also on just what can spark joy. (Side note: I wrote the piece on 4/20, and a few people felt that sparking joy could mean something entirely different on that date. I do not judge.) However, I got to thinking about how the spark of joy is a great way to rekindle our burning creativity, but it is far from the only way.
I have come to the decision that joy isn't a critical ingredient - it's all about the spark.
Over the past week, I have had a poem crashing about my mind, just looking for a way to take final shape. I have sought the inspiration to push it onto the written page, but the "joy" hasn't been there to ignite that fire. Pieces of it come together, evolve, fall apart, morph into other poems, and so forth, but so far the result has not been a cohesive poem. I clearly did not have that element that sparked the right joy to complete the piece.
Then, the other day, during a bicycling trip through the Midwest on a particularly hot afternoon, as I fought the wind and my own fatigue, the poem began to take shape. Was this my moment of joy? Hardly - my forearms were shaking and certain muscle groups were pressing their limits as sweat ran into my eyes. However, this is the magic of the moment. The spark was not one of joy but one of personal strain. Fatigue. Weariness. As exhaustion crept through my body, I found what that poem needed. The poem itself was not a joyous piece - it was dark and introspective, a personal dissection of parts of me I did not enjoy exploring. In my moment of weakness, I saw how those pieces now came together, and my creative side was suddenly energized. I knew how the poem worked, I knew its voice and I could do it justice. And no joy was harmed in the process of putting together the verses.
What's my point? Sometimes, the spark of inspiration is not going to come from a happy place, and we shouldn't just assume that the face we need to see is a smiling one. We need to look for our spark in the darkness, through the fog of our despair, in those places we dare not explore. If our inspirational spark happens to come from joy, then all the better. However, it's not the only place the spark can exist, and finding it in those remote hiding places can reveal things we never even knew we were looking for.
And incidentally, bicycling and other outdoor adventures are great ways to get out of your head and just focus on the world around you. I'm not saying they are for everyone, but if you go on a hike and it inspires a poem, I'd love to hear it.