Last week, my six-year-old granddaughter Zoe came for five days. It was my great pleasure to take her to see Mystere, her first Cirque du Soleil show. For the next three days, the music from the show played whenever we were in the car and Zoe recalled (perfectly) what scene each song accompanied.
The rest of her visit was filled with lots of art projects. This is obviously a girl who gets up in the morning asking herself, “What can I make today?”
On Saturday morning she begged for a return visit to Michael’s for more supplies. I relented because I’m that kind of grandmother. She surprised me by selecting a white mask and a bag of feathers.
As soon as we got home Zoe sat down with my 20 Years Under the Sun book, a history of Cirque’s first two decades. After studying the pictures, she set up her studio on my dining room table and began painting and decorating the mask.
While she worked I was puttering in the kitchen so she gave me updates on her progress. She said, “I want this kind of like Cirque, but it’s going to have me in it too.”
“That’s called inspired by,” I said. “Your mask is inspired by Cirque du Soleil, but it’s not a copy.” I explained a little bit more about what “inspired by” means.
That got me thinking about all the times I’ve been “inspired by” myself. Paradoxically, part of the creative process comes from being an enthusiastic spectator.
And we needn’t limit our spectating only to activities or enterprises that are like our own.
I have no desire to create theatrical experiences, but Cirque du Soleil inspires me. I’m fascinated by their commitment to finding the perfect balance between business and creativity.
Entrepreneurs and other creative types are constantly seeking inspiration, of course. This causes them to pay attention and be on the alert at all times because experience has shown them that inspiration can arrive at any time.
After watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, my sister Margaret posted a photo of her latest creation with this explanation: “This is what happens when I watch Marilyn Monroe get married in the movies: a little hat made of pleated satin with a voluptuous, hand-made chiffon rose and a wisp of tulle.”
That, of course, is the lovely thing about inspiration. It begets more inspiration.
But only if we’re paying attention. Or as Mary Pipher says, “Inspiration is very polite. She knocks softly and goes elsewhere if we don’t answer.”