Feeling Inspired

If I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked the question, “so where do you get your inspiration from?”. The truth is I didn’t really know for a very long time. I have never had a muse, the source of inspiration for the Greeks. Ideas have just come and gone and sometimes they stayed long enough for me to work with.

Then slowly over the years I began to realise that the best ideas always came when I was doing something entirely unrelated to the activity. The commonality though was that the other unrelated activity is all consuming. Watching movies where my visual, audio and emotional cortexes are all fully engaged has always been fruitful. Physical activity too has never failed to deliver and for me that is riding my hybrid battered old bicycle around the hilly roads of County Down where all my senses are fully engaged and immersed. I love riding my bike on my own and have done this in the sun, wind, rain, snow and sleet. There have been many moments of feeling completely content with and at one with this world. As well as generating ideas these two activities in particular enable me to process thoughts and emotions. 

While we were making RETNE, I went on many many bike rides. The script was constantly being re-written as we encountered technical challenges within an incredibly tight deadline. I did loose count of the rewrites but it was double figures by the end of the process. Each time I would ride my bike and come up with a brilliant solution. Then that “brilliant solution” would not work and would have to be rewritten. The trick was not to get too precious or attached to the purity of any idea I had.

Before RETNE, 2016 had been a difficult year, my father died on the 1st January. The following days, weeks and months and been dark and filled with grief and detachment. It was the feeling of detachment that was the most difficult to beare because there was no sense it would end. Although the grief was painful, it felt right and natural, I promised to give myself all the time I needed and to do what I had to do and just go with it. But then November came and I found myself in Iceland. A country filled to the brim with contradictions, opposites and contrasts. The land of Elves or Huldufolk, the invisible people. It is a magical place that is bewitching. Water exists in all its impossible manifestations freezing, steaming, gurgling, gushing, pumping, frothing, spewing and it warms, cleanses and heals. It is a country for the mind, body and soul. You can walk up to glaciers that are as old as the world. It is clean. One interesting fact, there are more sheep than people in Iceland, a population size of 332,529 and 800,000 sheep. In spite of all the glory that Iceland had to offer that feeling of detachment pervaded until I played with virtual reality for the first time. It was on the Vive in the Harpa in Reykjavik and every molecule of my being was dancing with Bjork and I felt connected to this planet once again. Although in many ways VR contradicts the natural essence of Iceland it brought me back to life. This could have happened anywhere anytime, but it happened in Iceland and each thing has its own time and place. 

In our house our connection to Iceland is my husband’s lifelong love of Bjork. So his birthday present last year was this family trip to Iceland exploring the golden circle. We had heard so much from friends who had visited and we were not disappointed. We bathed in outdoor municipal pools offering varying degrees of heat from 38” to 44”. The kids played in swimming pools as snow settled on our heads. Iceland screams the simplicity of using the best of what nature has to offer without polluting or corrupting its course. 

The first thing we did when we returned home in November was to book another trip to Iceland in April this year. So the second thing I did was to find someone in Belfast who I could work in VR with and so RETNE was made. Was what happened in Iceland with VR inspiration? In part, but it also feels so much bigger then what inspiration encapsulates. To quote the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “my life got flipped-turned upside down” from playing VR in Iceland.

By the time we returned to Iceland we went further and deeper into the country. That effort was rewarded every step of the way. We made time to meet with local people and to try and get to know the country a little better. We were there for ten days split between the north and the southeast. We also kept a family diary of our visit where we wrote our thoughts, reflections and took pictures. It will be a great momento for our children in years to come. It was a journey that emphasised the ordinariness of the human condition and how we are just visitors passing through a planet, one where its glorious mountains, seas and earth will remain long after our footprints have faded. If we are lucky and have lived our lives well, when we are gone, we leave love in the hearts of those who are living. My father lived his life well.

My reflections are that inspiration needs to come from different sources depending on where we are at a particular point in time. Whats useful is to have is a toolkit of tricks and resources and hope that they will work for most of the time. If that still doesn’t work then try something completely new.