Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

In Search of Inspiration: Thoughts from a Coffee Shop

Why do we write? Why do we create? Why is my life guided by this nebulous passion to share stories through creative means, when there is (minimal) hope that I will ever get rich or anyone really cares?

Any creative person goes through these periods of doubt at times. The doubt consumes us  and we find ourselves wallowing in our inability to express ourselves in the ways that make us most comfortable. I'm not talking about writer's block, exactly, but a deeper questioning of purpose, of goals, of dreams that makes every word you write, every image you create, every project you start seem unimportant compared to those who are out there changing the world.

Their lies fallacy.  For stories and art help change the world.  The individual stories of our lives create an incredible web that joins us despite cultural/racial/religious differences. If we could only recognize the universality of the arts--the power of artistic and creative expression to bring people together--this world would be a much happier, more peaceful place.

Sometimes I need a reminder of that though.

Where does one go for those reminders? Sometimes I wander through botanical gardens, looking for the beauty that exists in nature and inspires so much else. But I live in the part of the world that this year seems to be trapped in never-ending winter (it's snowing again as I write). Sometimes I'll go to an art museum or a bookstore, looking for inspiration in other people's creations. More often though, I head to a coffee shop. I look for coffee shops that have atmosphere, and provide cozy seating. I look for places that serve drinks in actual mugs, and where you might (if you are willing) find interesting people to observe and perhaps even talk to.

Today I came to my favorite place, Victoria Station in Putnam, CT.

Victoria Station

The place looks empty in this shot, but you can see the man to my right playing the piano, as I sit on a cozy couch loaded with pillows. I've chatted off and on with this man, and a friend of his who was here playing for a while. Although this was the first time we've talked, they've noticed me here before. It is somewhat quiet today, which I prefer, but some days this place is filled with fascinating people. There was the man who one day decided to tell me stories about riding the bus across country. There are the people who sit and have loud conversations about life that inspire me to write or dream or think. The music from the piano floats through my head making me think of shows that I've done, people I've met, songs I've sung. Being in a place like this, surrounded by people who live separately from me and yet have rich stories to tell inspires me to find the connections that unite us beyond the coffee shop.

In the online Introduction to Theatre class that I am currently teaching (yes, I know, strange concept but somehow it works) I have my students research a theatrical tradition (Japanese Theatre, Chinese Theatre, Indian Sanskrit, Puppetry around the World, Commedia dell'arte, and Carnival) and share the information with the rest of the class. Then they are supposed to have online discussions about the different forms. As I was grading the discussions today, one students comment stood out for me:
"Evidently, one can draw an overwhelming multitude of parallels between the six theatrical traditions which we have sought to encompass in our presentations."
The parallels exist across cultures, time periods, belief systems, and difference. The parallels exist because all the performance traditions have one root in common, the desire to share our stories and our interpretation of what it means to live in a creative way. The root of theatre is story. The root of art is story. The root of writing is story.

And story is . . . indeed . . . what connects us all.

Where do you go when you need inspiration? Why do you feel the urge to create?

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