Blogversation 2012: Who or what inspires you?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation here and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

Why do I love New Orleans? If I say it’s about the music, food, architecture and art, that doesn’t get at why NOLA is different from my hometown, New York.

I read a book last year called Letters from New Orleans, short observations by a guy who’d recently moved there about what his new life was like. He put his finger on something I hadn’t been able to when he said New Orleanians are unabashed.

To generalize, New Yorkers are concerned about appearances. It’s a fashion mecca where many people work at getting into the right see-and-be-seen restaurants and clubs.

I’ve been to music shows in NYC where people sit politely or furrow their brows in concentration. Maybe that’s just the kind of stiff folks they are, or maybe they’re too worried about appearing cool to risk dancing.

Meanwhile New Orleanians, generally speaking, seem to let their freak flags fly. Why wouldn’t they dance a little too wildly when their coworkers already saw them dressed in nutty costumes for Mardi Gras?

Travel + Leisure magazine recently voted New Orleans the city with America’s strangest people.

There’s a good reason that the Crescent City is also the No. 1 city for bars, wild weekends, and people-watching: every day can be its own form of Mardi Gras, from the Frenchmen Street area to the whole French Quarter.

Even those who’ve never been to New Orleans probably have a mental picture of the costumed kookiness of Mardi Gras and the whole Carnival season leading up to it, now in full swing.

But it’s so much deeper than drunk college girls showing their boobs to get beads on Bourbon Street.

King Dr. John and Queen Voodoo Priestess Miriam in the Krewe du Vieux parade in New Orleans. This photo used under a Creative Commons license, with kind permission of Infrogmation. Click for more info.

In a city that celebrates its voodoo roots, there’s a love of Halloween and costumes.

There’s also a different relationship with death, as the traditional New Orleans jazz funeral includes both dirges and celebratory dancing.

I find it strange to go to a funeral where no one is crying — unless the deceased was a huge jerk (in which case, why are you there?), isn’t a funeral the perfect place to display the emotions you feel in that loss?

New Orleans unabashedly lets loose on death.

Our home for three months of 2011 was this adorable bright blue house in the Garden District of New Orleans. I never saw a house that color in my Midwestern hometown.

Even the homes in New Orleans are more unabashed. Showing the Caribbean influence of this Gulf of Mexico port city, it’s not unusual to see homes painted bright colors like teal or yellow instead of the muted, “don’t offend the neighbors” neutrals I grew up with.

Perhaps because I was voted strangest girl in my senior class (an honor that will stay with me forever, in spite of the election having been rigged by the staff of my high school newspaper), this celebration of eccentricity speaks to me.

Instead of self censoring out of fear that we’ll be judged, if you’re instead stifling a giggle at seeing the boss dressed in drag on Mardi Gras or getting praise and encouragement for the clever costume you made, that seems enormously liberating.

Spending three months of 2011 in New Orleans gave me the opportunity to settle into this different way of life. I felt inspired to invest more energy in what makes my heart sing than in worrying what other people think.

I have tried to bring that spirit back home with me to Brooklyn, and though I don’t live in Williamsburg, I’m realizing there’s plenty of room to be unabashed here, too.

The Huffington Post recently ran an article headlined Six-Plus Years After Hurricane Katrina, Now Is a Great Time to Visit New Orleans. The post is basically a NOLA to-do list for visitors, which concludes by saying:

Warning: your food will taste a little bland and everything will look a little less colorful when you get back.

I’m doing what I can to keep the color and the spice in my heart.

[View the story “New Orleans is unabashed” on Storify]

Who or what inspires you? Why?


Categories: creativity

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. I am inspired by emotion and energy, both mine and that of others. I feed off them. I soak in the vibes, let them churn around a bit and then produce. It’s organic and weird, and it’s taken me a long time to recognize and trust the process. I can write anywhere, anytime, with anything, if I am “feeling” it. I write to please my inner reader and sate the inspiring beast.

    The inspirations are as varied as the moments. Sometimes it’s something someone says that strikes me; sometimes it’s something wonderful or heartbreaking that I see on the news; sometimes it’s a piece I’ve read or music I’ve listened to. The pieces of which I am most proud were conceived and delivered in my vibe-y vortex.

    Of course, there is the day-to-day, food-on-the-table type of writing that I need to do. It’s good stuff, especially to the person who is paying me, but there’s a difference between that — which is like always getting on base — to the truly inspired, hitting it out of the park stuff.

  2. I’m inspired by many of the things that I see in everyday life and sometimes dreams.

    In the fall of 2010, I launched a scrappy little handmade zine (appropriately) titled Easily inspired. We published two issues and then it disappeared onto a shelf. Its focus was on the people, places, and things that give me ideas and energy to create. This post’s question has inspired me to revive it.

    Told you it was easy. Thanks;)

  3. Colleen’s blog has inspired me to put NOLA on the short list of places to go on vacation. (It’s hard when work demands a lot of travel to go somewhere for fun when all I want to do is sleep in my own bed! … BUT, Colleen and many others put NOLA on the top of the list.)

    Perhaps, predictable, I am continually inspired by my father. I wrote about him here:

    I didn’t lie, cheat … but maybe “quit” seeing as I didn’t reach my 1,000 mile goal in 2011. And haven’t blogged about it yet (trying not to judge myself, either)! I have a few days of travel in front of me, maybe I’ll be moved to write about it in the air. 🙂

  4. I love this blog post about New Orleans because, well, I love New Orleans!

    But what inspires me? I would have to say teaching. I love to teach people, I love to be taught by amazing thought leaders, and I love working on teams that have an ethos of, “We all can learn from each other, and we all can teach one another.” I love classroom settings, always have. The palpable energy of discovering something new energizes me 🙂

  5. There’s a bunch of artists who inspire me. Here are some of them:

    Faith Ringgold – maker of storyquilts and children’s books
    Keith Haring – pop artist
    Missy Elliott – rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, dancer
    Maira Kalman – designer, writer, illustrator
    Eva Zeisel – design legend
    Women Film Directors – Nancy Savoca, Allison Anders, Karyn Kusama, Gurinder Chadha, Kasi Lemmons
    Jim Henson – King of the Muppets, tv and film pioneer
    Questlove – drummer for The Roots and King of Twitter!
    Julie Taymor – Director of theater, opera, film
    Rokafella – Female breakdancer, Director of the documentary of “All the Ladies Say”
    All the women in Creative Conversations, the women’s artist group that I help lead

  6. I am always inspired by great books. A compelling story often inspires introspection and even change, and the sheer act of creating a kick-ass book always makes me want to take my writing to the next level.


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  4. New Orleans houses pop in vivid colors | Newvine Growing

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