How looking back on past experiences can help you find your muse
Exploring past events, and digging up the memories that are associated with them, is a great way to gain both insight and inspiration. Next time you are looking for your muse, try going through a box of keepsakes and important papers to see what memories help spark your creativity.
I have a shoebox in which I keep things like legal papers, letters, cards, vacation receipts, ticket stubs from concerts, plus anything else that seems worth keeping around. In fact, I actually have a number of these shoeboxes, each one representing a year or two of my life (I have pretty big feet), containing a paper trail of all my important experiences stretching back a good ten or fifteen years.
Sometimes, I will get the idea to dig around in these boxes and let these papers and documents bring me back to another time and place. For instance, I might come across a ticket stub to a particularly good show that I saw in the city, and find myself taken back to that experience and recalling what it was that I found so great about the show that I was compelled to save the ticket. Sometimes it is the show itself, other times it is some other experience that is tied to the show. Or, I will come across the lease from the first apartment that I rented and remember the excitement I felt from actually having a place without any roommates to deal with. Thinking of these past experiences helps me dig up new ideas that I can then use for my various creative projects.
I know I am not the only one with one of these shoeboxes, or a shoebox equivalent. Whether it is a file cabinet, a junk drawer, or even a closet, most of us have a place that we like to keep these important reminders of past events. Next time you are looking for your muse, digging through these treasure troves of former experiences might provide the spark you need to finish up the project you are working on.
For example, if you are writing a report on the local food economy, digging out that research paper that you wrote in college about the impact of farmer markets might end up giving you a creative angle in which to approach you new assignment. Or, perhaps you are looking for an idea for a birthday gift for your significant other. Looking through some old vacation brochures and remembering what a good time you had at a particular place, might give you inspiration for a great new gift idea.