Journalism, Ohio University, Photography

Ships are safe in the harbour

It’s easy to be inspired. There’s not a lot to it. You can watch good movies, listen to an album that excites your imaginaton, watch the stock market dance or oogle at paintings on a wall. Whatever your interest, you can be passively interested.

There’s no substance to any of those things. Literally every being on this planet can somehow interact with each of those mediums, and everything else for that matter. When I’m at a concert, I have the same tangible experience a music critic does. The worth of my visit to an art museum is the same as a sculptor’s, in the same respect.

I can do any passive activity as well as anyone on earth.

The difference between me, the music critic and sculptor is their inherent or otherwise learned ability to translate the way something makes them feel into something someone else will passively consume.

There’s something in everyone that the next guy doesn’t have: an instinct, viewpoint, distinction — even cynicism— that sets him or her apart.

Something will catch my eye almost every day that makes me stop and give it a second look. At times, I’ll pitch the thought into the ever-circulating memory bank, jot it down or, in the case of digitally awesome stuff, save the link.

My repertoire probably doesn’t compare to some others’, but I have three notepad pages full of scribbled ideas and a folder of 33 “stories I like” that I’ve saved since Christmas.

But on a day where I’ll return home chock full of ideas, I’ll sit down to try to apply them and go blank.

“Where does it come from?” I ask myself.

I found my answer — albeit, one I knew in my heart but never thought about — in the New York Times today.

Don’t go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can’t rush inspiration.” — Colson Whitehead, author of “Zone One”

By golly, he’s got it!

… Except that’s much easier said than done. I’ll go through stretches, as anyone who makes stuff will, where I can’t string a coherent set of even partially memorable sentences together.

But as I’ve learned, those are the times when I know I’m on to something. Because potential awesomeness waiting around the corner.

It’s not easy to make inspiring things, though. Compelling someone to do something is a powerful entity. Out of the thousands of things I passively consume in a day, one or none of them might inspire me. Not that people are constantly seeking to inspire, but that’s a pretty low success rate notwithstanding.

I recall reading one of my favorite blogs a while back and being slightly taken aback by one of its posts.

The curator, Tampa Bay Times and Grantland Staff Writer Michael Kruse, was googly-eyed over about a story written by his Grantland cohort Brian Phillips.

“That feeling when you’re inspired to try to write something this good and simultaneously terrified you never will?”

Followed by this link.

That got me to thinking, which is always dangerous. If someone else’s words could sum up how I felt reading Kruse’s work, he did it for me.

“You’re supposed to be able to write books, manage sources, make video, edit the interns’ stories and do it all before lunch,” I thought.

I ask myself regularly how can I get to that point, without defining exactly what that point is.

As I said, it’s easy to be inspired, but uncannily difficult to conjure inspiration in yourself and the things you do.

You would think that in the news business than writers, photographers and designers interact regularly. Really, the heads of their respective departments work together and the rest merely co-exist.

It’s not that they’re at odds with one another, but they have come to respect each other’s creativity and work independently, save major collaborative projects.

But whenever I’m in the presence of a truly creative person, I can see the gears churning inside their head. It’s the function that turns empty fields into landscape portraits, data into front-page graphics and box scores into newsprint poetry.

I’ve had this talk with fellow writers, and they see it too. We’ll set up portraits of athletes, bring a photographer along with us, try to direct traffic and bridge the gap between newly-introduced “creative” and studly bro number one, only to be shut down by the zoom lens that is the photographer’s thought process.

It’s amazing. There’s nothing I can do to explain or describe it. It just inherently is.

The only visible proof my creative sense is a laughable “poof” of mangled, greasy hair that my fingers have run through hundreds of times throughout my work cycle.

I think I’ve done one inspiring thing, ever. I wrote a story three months ago that I look back at and wouldn’t change. So far, that’s all I have.

But I passively consume a bunch of awesome things. So I’ve decided to curate the said awesome things into “a running collection of distinctive awesomeness” in the form of a Tumblr account.

This isn’t my first bout with Tumblr. I halfheartedly started an iPhone photo page earlier this year… and then promptly discovered Instagram, which I don’t use regularly nowadays anyway.

The site will be just what the tagline describes: a compilation of the inspiring things I stumble upon each day in the form of pictures, links, stories and sound.

The blog’s name comes from a poem “Ships are safe in the harbour.”

 All I live for is now

All I stand for is where and how

All I wish for are magic moments

As I sail through change

My resolve remains the same

What I chose are magic moments

Because ships are safe in the harbour

But that is not what ships are made for

The mind could stretch much further

But it seems that is not what our minds are trained for

We call for random order

You can’t control Mother nature’s daughter

Ships are safe in the harbour

But that is not what ships are built for

The witch hunter roams

The scary thing is that he’s not alone

He’s trying to down my magic moments

As we sail through change

Ride the wind of a silent rage

And sing laments of magic moments

That speaks for itself.




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My name is Jim Ryan, and I'm a breaking news reporter for The Oregonian and OregonLive in Portland. I'm an Ohio University graduate from Gaylord, Michigan.

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