Ever had those days where you just weren’t getting any new ideas?
I opened up my laptop one Saturday afternoon stressing over the fact that I had to write an original song for a class. My mind went blank. I had no experience in the songwriting department. I stared fixedly at the word document, hoping that the stark silence around me would fuel my brain to come up with a string of verses and choruses. But twenty minutes later, I was still staring beyond the depths of a blank, white page with no new ideas in my head.
Amidst the sea of daydreams that followed, my mind gradually drifted off to a conversation I had with a friend on a very rainy day. I said to him, “I don’t like the rain. It’s depressing.” He replied by looking at me in awe and said, “How could you say that? The rain is awesome! I mean it sounds awesome.” I sat there and pondered his words. So he thinks the sound of rain is awesome. I wanted to hear it for myself, so I stepped out into the rain, prepared to take in the amazing wonders of water sprinkling down from the deep blue sky. As I listened closely, I could say that for the first time, I enjoyed the spattering sounds of water on my jacket and the asphalt. It was like music to my ears, instead of just another part of a gloomy day. I felt like I could create a song from its slow, steady rhythm…and well, there was my assignment.
That moment made me realize that you can gain inspiration from anywhere, especially the sounds around you. Whether you are a writer, painter, musician, chef, photographer, whatever — sounds of inspiration are echoing all around us. Its omnipresence is real. But it is up to us to get out there and hear that inspiration. Sometimes the simplest of sounds can be the ones that give us the most novel of ideas. Right now, I’m in the midst of sounds—the sound of tap water running, the brief sound of a police car siren, the sound of a soft melody playing from the television, and the sound of a cricket chirping incessantly outside of my window. Stop and listen to the sounds around you. Really listen. Maybe even close your eyes. What do you hear? Blend such varying sounds together inside of your head, and that’s where all the ideas for your next song, story, or painting might be.
Many of my favorite places are in nature. Hike and listen to the song of the birds. Walk by a river and listen to the sounds of the glistening water. Listen to the waves of the ocean caress their way across the sea and then the sand. Walk into a garden. Two of my most wondrous experiences were hiking through the Grand Canyon and watching the Niagara Falls. I was mesmerized by the powerful forces of erosion that formed the magnificent cliffs of the Grand Canyon and all the natural sounds that came with it—birds chirping at sunrise, trees blowing in the wind, ducks quacking—everything. And Niagara Falls. The powerful splashing sounds of the water as I stood a mere feet away from the falls were amazing. I felt so small hearing such powerful sounds come from such natural wonders, but at the same time so empowered.
Another one of my favorite places is right in the middle of a city. There is something exhilarating about the sounds in the midst of city life madness. Some of my biggest inspirations have come from watching a city skyline from a building rooftop at night, and watching the little bright dots of people and vehicles running to and from certain locations in the city. Listen to the voices around those buildings as they light up at night. Walk through a city and soak in the constant hustle and bustle around you. Take in the roaring sounds of trains and cars passing by and the buses honking and squealing. Listen to the bits and pieces of conversation around you, the sound of quick footsteps pounding against the pavement, the laughter of young children, the loud high fives and the grand expressions of human emotion. If there is music around you, take it in. Is it Jazz? Pop? Rap? Classical? These may have an urban ring to them or an international flavor or something more esoteric.
Next time you’re aching to come up with a new idea, just stop for a second and listen. Whatever the music, whatever the sound of nature, whatever the sound in the city, take it all in because it could be the spark of a world of imagination.