I could say it all day

What might a recipe for inspiration look like? Is there a reliable formula?

As with the quest for the perfect apple pie, it seems everyone has a unique answer. Maybe it’s a time of day with a certain beverage, or a location plus the right companion. Perhaps it’s a combination of your favorite pen and notebook, with the right album on repeat. Or maybe, your inspiration is found in a long walk or shower.

I'm grateful when inspiration strikes, but wouldn't be opposed to it arriving at more predictable intervals. There are a few music artists that work well for me, namely Sigur Rós and Warpaint. I find coffee shops can be a nice boost, but I never know where that line is between energizing bustle and distraction. Walks actually don't spark new thoughts for some odd reason. I wish they did.

My trustworthy solution is the evening shower. It's amazing how often I'm stumped by something, sometimes for hours, and then within minutes of stepping into the shower, worried I'll forget the glut of ideas in my head.

Drifting to sleep, though, is the time I enjoy the most. The mind wanders unrestrained and dots are connected, sometimes brilliantly, other times absurdly. Soon I'm reaching for paper to drowsily sketch or write down an idea. Those are always entertaining in the light of day.

Sometimes the perfect tool at the perfect location at the perfect time of day results in... nothing. Those frustrating experiences do serve a purpose, though. They remind us to look for new recipes and fresh ingredients, and they help us appreciate moments of creativity and revelation even more.

Of course, deadlines are another source of inspiration, which is one of the reasons you're reading this right now :)

Be certain of this: When honest love speaks, when true admiration begins, when excitement rises, when hate curls like smoke, you need never doubt that creativity will stay with you for a lifetime.
—Ray Bradbury, How to Keep and Feed a Muse


Last week's dispatch asked, What are your favorite names from life or fiction?

Lauren wrote:

My favorite real-life name of all time is Penelope Hedges. It belongs to a woman I once happened across while volunteering, years ago, for a local performing arts organization – she was a subscriber to their series and I immediately conjured up a mental picture.<br><br>Some other memorable names:<br>Ottomar Cypress – he was an organist at one of the churches I grew up in. (My dad was a minister.)<br>Tamarack Zeppa – one of my grandparents' neighbors in the Northern Ontario countryside.<br>Avril and Orin Incandenza, from David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest<br><br>Actually, David Foster Wallace is pretty outstanding with names in general. The Broom of the System has some outstanding character names, including Lenore Stonecipher Beadsman, Biff Diggerence, Candy Mandible, and Rick Vigorous.

William wrote:

Oh, I’ve been collecting interesting names for years, to use in stories or just to read over from time to time. Many come from researchers whose work is mentioned in a book — scientists always seem to have the best names — Sir Weatherall, Alain Aspect, Constantinos K. Coursaris, Jarinee Chattratichart, Evelyn Forget, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. Jackson Weaker was my nephew’s imaginary friend. Somewhere I heard of a Priscilla Chandler-Zoss and a Rohan Lourdes. There’s Mr Blankenship, Mrs Sparrowhawk, and Dr Birdwhistell. I wish I could share my whole list, but that should do for now!

Joan wrote:

I love my maiden name - Joan Concilio - pronounced "con-silly-oh," if you're not Italian. My married name of Otto doesn't really work - the lovely Mrs. Otto named her children with three-syllable first names, which flow nicely, but "Joan Otto," which I inherited through marriage, is over before it starts. I also love the name Holden Caulfield. I mean, I love Cather in the Rye, but the rhythm of that name is amazing. One of my favorite authors, Alison Atlee, has a great name as well. I could say it all day.

Marcus wrote:

We are expecting our first child end of November and it feels like the only thing I think about at the moment are names. It feels like such a big decision to name a child, something he will live with for the rest of his life. The list is growing and shrinking all the time. I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's favorite names here to get more inspiration.

Erin wrote:

Two of my favorite names are family names and hold a lot of sentimentality for me. The first is Alden, which comes from my mom's side of the family and comes all the way from John Alden who came over on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact. The second is Jamison, which is from my dad's side and is just pure awesome. Not only is a version of the Jamison name the name for one of my favorite whiskeys, it also spells "jam is on" when broken down, and, you know, the jam is always on when you're with a Jamison. :) Another name that I love is Jonas, like the main character of "The Giver." I read the book when I was younger and something about the character just connected with me and as a result I developed a fondness for the name. However, I don't think I'll be using it if I have a son someday because of a certain pop band that was popular a few years ago...

Ben wrote:

Names are so important. So many cultures have all these big deals about them. You get part of your name from your family, usually. Your parents give you another part. Parents who don't spend a lot of time thinking about what to name their children weird me out. We named our children distinctly Irish names on purpose (William "Liam" and Tiernan). We agonized over middle names. Names are so important.<br><br>In fiction, I have to agree, Amelia Pond is way up there. Also Arthur Dent and Obi-wan Kenobi. John Constantine is interesting, especially as the authors of his series have played with the Constantine last name in different historical contexts. Then there are characters that have names completely at odds: Hellboy is a silly name for the titular character of a dark and creepy sort of tale.<br><br>And don't even get me started on the names of things... places, books, buildings, brands. I once had an '81 Pontiac Bonneville named Maurice.

Carie wrote:

Today I met a little girl named Leia, who told me she was named after Princess Leia from Star Wars. I asked if she had a brother named Luke. She said, "No, my brother is named after a different movie. His name is Atreyu." :)

Brad wrote:

I've always liked interesting names. Some of my favorites: Audra, Dylan, Brynn, Aidan, Snow and Sky.

Drew wrote:

Just a few of my favorite names: Jo Johnson, Thomas Covenant, Atticus Finch, Hawkeye Pierce, Isadora Duncan, Twyla Tharp, Anna Pavlova (yes, I'm partial to dancers names!)

Victor wrote:

My favorite names are the names of people I know and love, for each one reminds me of a special chapter of my life - specific emotions, thoughts, experiences - upon which I can reflect. Thus in my mind the name 'Timmy' is very warm and heartfelt; the name 'Eric' is red and mentally active; the name 'Maximilian' is rebellious and cool.

Jon wrote:

My co-worker at a big corporation told me about her least-favorite weekly global conference call. As people dialed into the meeting, a robotic voice would announce everyone's name: Bob Jones ... has joined the meeting. Sally Rogers ... has joined the meeting.<br><br>And eventually, The Guy With The Name would show up. Dickshit Turdpoo ... has joined the meeting. She never learned to contain her giggles at his name, even after several weeks. She was the only one.

Joel wrote:

Isobel (daughter), Eleanor (maternal grandmother), Bump Wills, Buddy Bell, Oddibe McDowell, Satchel Paige, Ragnar Danneskjöld, Francisco d'Anconia, Littless, Scout, Atticus Finch, Captain Augustus McCrae, Captain Woodrow F. Call, Veronica Mars, Ludwig von Mises, Bono, Aslan, Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond

Uncommon reads

Tune Out, Slow Down and Read by Jeanne Whalen:

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn't make it through a book anymore.

Community Services by Jesper:

Social media has come to symbolize, for me, the tyranny of having to appear relevant, visible and clean to everyone else, the inability to define my own boundaries and the uncertainty about what’s going to happen tomorrow to the fundamental structure of this tool that I’m using – all the while someone either makes money off of me or adds to the looming amorphousness trying to stay afloat.

Your turn

Do you have a recipe for inspiration?