Updated: Nov 22
Inspiration is a mysterious, elusive and perhaps even divine interconnectedness between everyone and everything. Communication, both through talking and listening, is a gateway for inspiration. When we explain concepts to others it can help clarify our own ideas and facilitate connections in our own minds, as well as in the minds of others. Working in an interdisciplinary team requires coming up with new ideas all the time and supporting the creative process of one another, part of which is encouraging inspiration.
Whether before or after you listen to today’s episode, I encourage you to go back and check out last year’s inspiration mini-series, Episodes 131 - 133: 131: Inspiration and Digital Media with Reilly Stephens of Pinterest, 132: Inspiration Matters Featuring MDM 11.0, and 133: Inspiration Framework: Time to ‘ACE’ It.
As I expectantly reopen my mind to the topic of inspiration, this episode marks a new chapter where I will share 3 things: a journey of highlights from recent sources of inspiration about inspiration, a conversation alongside 6 Master of Digital Media students at Toronto Metropolitan University who will share diverse perspectives on the topic of inspiration, and 2 new additions to my inspiration framework.
Let’s begin with the always thoughtful and beautiful wordsmith, Suleika Jaouad, who recently shared a note about finding inspiration through awe in her publication, The Isolation Journals. On October 29, 2023 she said this:
“The side table in this photograph sits in the living room of my farmhouse, right next to my couch. I spend a fair amount of time on said couch, so I see this table all the time, to the point that I don’t actually see it anymore. But a few days ago, the sight of the morning sun on this concrete planter and the tendrils sprouting from the woman’s head struck me still. It filled me with awe.
Later I realized that this moment felt like a perfect embodiment of what sparks my creative process: the experience of wonder. It’s being stopped in my tracks by something I see, something I hear, something I read. It’s a question that suddenly and then persistently intrudes at the edges of my mind. Sometimes I welcome the question; other times, I don’t really want to invite it in, either because it might reveal something uncomfortable, or because the question feels too big, too insurmountable, too unanswerable. And yet when I begin to make something with it, be it an essay or a painting, I sense a shift. Like twisting a prism, the light falls in a new way, allowing a different or deeper understanding, giving me a sense of agency, if only artistically.”
This guided me to continue my winding journey of inspiration, leading next to Brene Brown’s book published in 2021, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, in which she explores terminology to help human beings label what we’re experiencing. In Section #4: Places We Go When It’s Beyond Us, emotions of awe, wonder, confusion, curiosity, interest and surprise are grouped as roommates, nestled into this chapter together, with awe and wonder sharing a single bunk. Brown says this:
“We often use “awe” and “wonder” interchangeably, which makes sense because as you can see, the experiences share a lot in common. But there is a primary difference between our experiences of these incredible emotions that’s worth understanding. I love how researchers Ulrich Weger and Johannes Wagemann explain it. They write, “Wonder inspires the wish to understand; awe inspires the wish to let shine, to acknowledge and to unite.” When feeling awe, we tend to simply stand back and observe, “to provide a stage for the phenomenon to shine.” Awe and wonder are essential to the human experience. Wonder fuels our passion for exploration and learning, for curiosity and adventure. Researches have found that awe “leads people to cooperate, share resources, and sacrifice for others” and causes them “to fully appreciate the value of others and see themselves more accurately, evoking humility.”” (p.58-59).
I find this pretty incredible when I think about the ways in which wonder and awe lead to inspiration; another feeling that lives beyond or above oneself, wielding the power to transcend.
In the final stop on the winding path of recent inspiration about inspiration, I landed at a book I acquired this summer, published in 2017 entitled The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World co-authored by an interdisciplinary team. In it, Stanford University Neuroscientist, David Eagleman, and composer, professor and artistic director, Anthony Brandt confirm that “to innovate is human” and that innovation will never stop; there will never be a settling point. Human brains are hardwired to evolve quickly and crave variation. Like most things in life, balance is required to arrive at a suitable equilibrium: “too much predictability and we tune out; too much surprise and we become disoriented… creativity lives in that tension” (p.23). Furthermore, one of the strong suits of the human brain is that it's constantly in a state of simulating ‘what-ifs’, imagining possible outcomes and simulating them internally. We are innovation machines! But our own brains and our own experiences will only take us so far. Eagleman and Brandt share that a ‘turbobooster’ for creativity lives outside of our brains and in the brains of others.
This, too, has been my experience when working with creative collaborators who embody diverse backgrounds and lived experiences, facilitating the evolution of my ideas in ways that I know I could not achieve on my own. It’s in these moments that true interdisciplinary innovation is made possible, leading to the heart of today’s episode. I’m joined by a new cohort of Master of Digital Media students at Toronto Metropolitan University who share their diverse perspectives on the topic of inspiration: where it comes from, what it feels like and how to channel it.
Let’s get into it. Take it away Aashana…
I love the way inspiration works, almost like a trampoline, the bouncer building momentum with each jump; the absorption of impact propelling the trampolinist to new heights not possible without the previous effort and leap of faith.
By using the tools within the inspiration framework I created in 2022 — including connecting to others experiences through conversation in class and on this podcast — I’ve been able to further expand the inspiration framework itself. I believe that connecting to inspiration more often and more easily (in other words, controlling the uncontrollable) can be achieved more often and more fully through a framework of actions inviting inspiration to the sandbox through embrace, pace, place, space, interface and chase, with the now added ‘surface’ and ‘grace’. Working through this framework with a friend, family member or colleague may prove to reap additional rewards, especially in the latter part of the process. These 8 ‘ACE’ tools can all be used together or be used independently from one another. Let me remind you of each of the 6 previous, as well as the 2 new ones.
“Accept or support willingly or enthusiastically”; Yes, And…; open to new ideas and ways of thinking putting your ego aside
Physically putting egos down; Yes, Let’s
Adjusting your normal speed of work, play, moving through the day; ‘emptying thoughts’ through play; ‘filling back up’ through open stillness (a framework provided by Dr. Victor Shamas)
Send a Sound (speed up); 7-min Repose (slow down)
Changing physical locations; size; contained or open-air; contains objects and/or people different from your routine
7 floors of campus building, focusing on analog/non-digital
How you physically exist in and/or experience a place; high/low; centre/wall; right-side-up/upside-down
7 floors of campus building, experiencing them in different ways
Moving from a digital space to a physical space; the tactility of pen/pencil on paper; changing the scale of paper you’re working on (from a small notebook to butcher paper)
Devices away, paper play
Communicate with people different than you; cross-disciplinary
Back in regular classroom + discuss moments of inspiration, building on each others’ (1+1 = 3)
Inspiration ebbs and flows; when you’ve got it, hold onto that moment; state of Flow
Holding space for self-compassion, when inspiration doesn’t go according to plan
Acknowledge that inspiration ebbs and flows and work to default not to frustration when things don’t go to plan, but to a place of rest
Here’s to finding inspiration in the most unlikely places.
About Our Guests:
Experiences and stories are where Aashana finds her spark and motivation. A beaming source of creative energy and positive stimuli, she is passionate about crafting innovative solutions and designing opportunities that foster meaningful interactions. An illustrious experiential marketer and digital storyteller in the making, Aashana believes in celebrating life one experience at a time. Being an unapologetic go-getter, she chooses to be an “oops” rather than a “what if”!
Mitch Kogan is an individual of many talents. However, where these talents mix and convene is in the field of digital art and storytelling. They are often seen using digital mediums like Photoshop or Canva to bring their imaginative ideas to life. Their creativity is constantly evolving and soaring, always looking for the endeavor that they could dive into next.
Jahnoya is a digital enthusiast with a passion for dance, photography, storytelling, and design. With a BA from UBC in Psychology and English, she believes creativity can be leveraged in all fields and aims to combine creative and strategic thinking in everything she does. Jahnoya is ready to take her skills to the next level in the Digital Media world through her MDM program at TMU.
Moustafa is a film festival organizer and a film producer with over a decade of extensive experience in event strategy and coordination, client success, brand marketing, and project management through working with major international film festivals, corporations, film sets, and agencies in Africa, Europe and North Africa.
Sejal Bahl is a digital media and performing artist from India and a 1st year Master's student studying digital media at Toronto Metropolitan University. Her pronouns are She/Hers. She holds a bachelor's degree in Communication with minors in Theatre and Cinematic Arts from Saint Mary's College of California. She is a social justice advocate who loves a good story and hopes to continue to tell meaningful stories using multiple mediums.
Ali Noorani is a User Experience Designer and a creative storyteller based in Toronto. Before, he was a journalist at Agence France-Presse where he broke Iran-related stories. His AFP career saw him often featured on various international networks. He later joined the NHK World to report the appeals of Japan from Tokyo. In 2021, he switched careers and jumped back into design some 15 years after landing his first job as a graphic designer.
Music: Somewhere Nice by John Bartmann, Licensed Under CC0 1.0 Universal
Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle