“When’s the last time you refilled the well?” she says to me. A friend. We’re talking about writing, creativity, energy.
When I consider filling up, emotionally or creatively, Paris is almost always my most visceral reaction, whether I speak of it or not.
Unlike many who turn to nature, choosing the quiet of the mountains or the sound of the waves, my preference for a place to renew and replenish is an urban center, the urban center – for me.
Our Sources of Creativity
When I consider the sources of my creativity, my enthusiasm, my sense of place and perspective, I think of people. My sons come to mind, of course, as do children in general. They are exceptionally effective levelers as well as humanizing, laughter-inducing, and awe-inspiring sources of light, tenderness, stories and certainly, our better angels.
But my truest north seems to be crowded streets with their hum and hustle, with their infinite possibilities for encounters and tales, the music of voices in hurried passage and pointed conversation, the colors of clothing that fleck a churning landscape, the aromas of sweat and perfume and if I find myself in the right neighborhood, the scent of crèpes on a griddle or the heady fragrance of lilies at the marché in Spring.
“You always come back better,” one of my sons used to say to me, when I would talk about Paris and he would encourage me to find a way to go – even for a few days – hardly the stuff of the single mother’s budget. He was still a teenager then, and occasionally, I did find a way – in order to walk, to observe, to inhale, to exhale, to soak it all in – and then to write.
Renew, Replenish, Restore
As I think about whatever it is that’s ailing me lately, I come to clarity. I have not refilled the well in years – not in the way that is most quietly effective, most creative – by wandering the tiny streets that I love, stopping as I please to enter a gallery and possibly, to sit or stand for hours, viewing artworks, undisturbed.
In doing this, I feel as I imagine some do when they enter a cathedral or other place of worship; when they sense plentitude, mystery, peacefulness.
I am inspired by the visual, by the mastery born of specific periods and artists; my preferences for line and abstraction have seemed both a progression and a most natural fit from the beginning, and in particular, from the age of 20 when I was studying in Paris.
I was immediately drawn to modern and contemporary art, and I would occasionally meander along the curving ruelles of the Left Bank gallery district, taking my time in exhibitions, imprinting images into the mind’s map, feeling happiness at its purist and carrying the breath of wonder with me into the remainder of my day and night.
The Poetry of Paris
There was a time when poetry would replenish the dwindling stores – Pablo Neruda, Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood. Poetry still holds the power to transport me, but admittedly, I must be in a frame of mind to sit still, in a place of emotional openness to the words, and no stress or to do lists knocking at my mental door.
And yet art can deliver me from any mood at any time, landing me straight inside the collision of exuberance, distraction, folly, acceptance; at times, the shrouded tunnels of memory, yielding their veils however briefly so I may reach a moment of discovery.
I am drawn to artwork that for some is dissonant and for me, the best possible adventure – where concepts collaborate with visual raconteurs of unique voice, where moments in history are captured in unexpected snapshots, where endless questions are posed through a highly personal lens, where brilliance may shine and leave me to the lucidity of a lesson in life’s challenges and possibly, its triumphs.
While New York with its galleries and museums can do the trick at times, for me, the most lyrical of sources remains Paris, where language, conversation, food, drink, and history all enrich the experience.
Refilling the Well (in Paris)
And I wonder when I’ll manage to get back to Paris again, to absorb the imagery that fills me with equal measures of excitement, energy, and calm; to meet with collectors who are as caught in the thrall of this form of creativity as am I, content to spend hours discussing artists, their remarkable journeys and their evolving themes, their varied processes and their makeshift tools, their inspiring digressions and their irrefutable constraints – as we enter their worlds and find ourselves bigger for it, smaller for it, better for it.
“Perhaps this year,” I tell myself, again.
And as I consider the conversation with a friend who reminds me of the importance of refilling the well, I know precisely how to go about it and where to begin… à Beaubourg, in the Marais, and later, perhaps a coffee, rue des Archives.
Paris images, my own.
Image, p. 9, my copy of catalogue, Macréau, Galerie Alain Margaron, Paris.
Image, rue des Archives, one of my favorite spots, by my son.
Please stop by Marsha’s place for more writers’ musings on the subject of creativity, and what feeds it.
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