The book I bought from Leslie

Another fabulous presenter during my week at Rancho la Puerta talked about rediscovering the magic and wonder of life and channeling that wonder into creative energy.  Leslie McGuirk — artist, children’s book author (serendipity anyone?), and creativity evangelist — conducted a series of workshops entitled, “The Quest for Inspiration.”  Leslie argues that every person is creative – not just artists, writers and musicians.  In fact, Leslie says creativity comes much more from how you see and experience the world than how well you write or draw.

Leslie said most adults in the U.S. live in the “numb zone,” a place where routine reigns and logic and practicality are king.  We mosey along in our lives, driving the same routes, performing the same tasks, sleeping on the same side of the bed, watching the same shows, talking to the same people.  Instead, if we consciously view the world as a magical place where anything can happen at any time, soon we will experience it that way too.  The good news is, we can do this by making even the tiniest of adjustments to our daily routines.

For example, if you’ve ever been to a yoga class you know that sometimes the instructor will tell you to clasp your fingers or cross your legs the opposite way than you usually do.  To most people, this feels very strange and requires active thought to even do it in the first place.  Turns out this actually helps create and reinforce new pathways in the brain which can lead to different ways of thinking and being.  Leslie said you can expand on that concept.  For instance, if you sleep on the same side of the bed every night, (gasp!) switch sides.  Other ideas: take a different route for your morning commute, run on the opposite side of the road/trail you use for your morning run, make random lists of the first five things that pop into your head.  Also, don’t forget to be goofy.  Those of us with children or writing for children have it a bit easier here.  Children act as tour guides for grownups, taking us back into that place where the world is brand new and oozing with possibility.  If you don’t have kids, do “kid-like” things.  Go to the zoo or an amusement park.  Dance around your house for pure pleasure.  Look for ladybugs in your backyard and count how many you find.  Laugh.  A lot.

Leslie also gave us a trick to remember people’s names.  She said people LOVE hearing their names spoken aloud.  They feel “seen” and respected.  She said simply saying people’s names when speaking to them can change your life in ways from the simple to the dramatic.  Here’s how it works: when someone tells you his/her name, look directly at his/her face and think of a famous person with that name.  Julia becomes Julia Roberts.  Steve becomes Steve Martin, and so on.  Even with 40+ people in the room that night, when we went back over everyone’s names we got a surprising number of them right (well, Leslie got a surprising number of them right as we cheered her on).

Jane and I decided to test it out at dinner that night.  Our waiter, Jesus Manuel, didn’t seem to respond much one way or the other to our saying his name every time we asked him something or said thank you.  However, the next day (Thursday), we were expecting cookies at lunch (both of us would swear that cookie day had always been on Thursday in past years).  Finding none, we asked Jesus Manuel when the cookies were coming.  We must have looked quite crushed when he told us there would be no cookies until Friday, because the next thing we knew, Jesus Manuel brought us cookies from his own personal stash.  This may seem like a simple thing, but five days into the Ranch diet, trust me when I tell you it was dramatic.  Lovely, in fact.

Speaking of personal interaction, Leslie advised us to “live our lives as if everyone we meet has something for us.”  Kind of changes your perspective on those interactions with the supermarket clerk, the next-door neighbor, the person who asks for directions, and yes – the waiter.  No Jesus Manuel – no cookies.

Seeing and participating in the world in different ways, like most endeavors, takes awareness and practice.  Leslie said, “Inspiration has to find you; you can’t go looking for it.”  I translate that to mean that when inspiration presents itself, you need to be able to recognize it and give it a warm welcome.  The world really is full of miracles.  All we need to do is make ourselves receptacles to receive them.

Categories: Travel, Writing · Tags: , , , ,



  1. Great post, Julie.

    It’s so true–there is so much wonderful detail in the world if we just slow down long enough to see it. A wealth of inspirational tidbits waiting to be discovered.

  2. Hi there, Julie.

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your retreat. And this is the second time in two days someone has suggested making tiny adjustments, so I’m paying attention! Hope the writing’s going well–Linda

  3. Thanks Alison and Linda! I haven’t gotten much writing done now that school is out for the summer, but I certainly have been much more consciously present with the kids. I’m sure that will pay off in the writing come fall when they’re back in school.

    Linda – do pay attention to those suggestions! Especially if they’re repeating, it’s got to mean something right? 🙂

  4. I agree that creative people aren’t just the writers, musicians, and artists. In fact, creative means to create. And imagine. To build. So here’s a list of a lot of other people that are also quite creative. Architects, bridge builders, mechanics, carpenters, cabinet makers, teachers, actors, directors, coaches, athletes, game designers, seamstress, interior decorator, mathematicians, among many, many others.

  5. I love this! We sure do get stuck in our ruts, and change feels so awkward sometime that we just don’t seek it. I agree 100% that if you have children or work with them, it helps you see things with a different perspective…..everyone should try seeing things through a child’s eyes once in a while!

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