I’m starting an ongoing series today that I’m calling “Living By The Book,”* wherein I take a book with a message, lifestyle or self-help program, try to live by it or practice its tenets for awhile and see if / how it works.
I was inspired to do this by a book called, interestingly enough,Â Inspiration Sandwich by an artist/author named SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy). SARK is a writer and creativity teacher who’s been dispensing advice on how to keep your creativity alive since about the late 1980s. You can tell one of her books by their colorful, water-color-ish drawings. This is the cover of Inspiration Sandwich:
The book is a collection of ways to awaken your creative self. Some of the ideas include inviting someone dangerous to tea, buying a toy for yourself and taking lots of naps. Inside, it says, “In the SARK tradition, it was written while in pajamas, and in between naps. My first job was at age four as the wake-up fairy in kindergarten. I believe in waking up creative spirits.”
The world of SARK is full of crazy colors, mostly purples and pinks, and big type that looks as if it’s handwritten. There are tiny messages all over her books, like “There are miracles all around us. The miracle is you.” There are line drawings, too. There is even the suggestion to hug trees.
I first discovered Inspiration Sandwich back in my college days, when I was obsessed with waking up my creative spirit. I’m not sure where I thought this spirit was or why I believed it to be slumbering in the first place but, when I discovered SARK, I dove right in, buying Inspiration Sandwich + a workbook + her “How To Be An Artist” poster for my dorm room.
Granted, these feelings of being cut off from a creative life may have stemmed from the fact that I was an introvert interested primarily in reading and writing fiction who had signed up to attend a gigantic state university, going to classes like Macroeconomics (with 200+ other students) and Newspaper Reporting I, which only had about 20 students but was taught by a crazed professor who talked a lot about her time in Tienanmen Square during the massacre of ’89.
I needed my Inspiration Sandwich to get by!
For a time, SARK served as a replacement mother. Away from my family for the first time, it’s not hard to see why her books became important to me – alone and rudderless, I needed that huggy feeling.
I also needed to imagine swinging on a swingset by moonlight. I wanted there to be a place where I could sit to watch snails instead of reading P.G. Wodehouse or failing a Geology exam.
But, in the end, SARK didn’t transform me or my outlook on the world. I set her aside and sallied forth into an often confusing and disappointing adult world. In fact, it would be hard for some people to believe that I actually owned her books, seeing as how I’m something of a hard-bitten realist.
But, underneath it all, perhaps there is someone who longs to take moonbaths.
A couple summers ago, I found my SARK poster and threw it away, possibly in shame or disgust. I got rid of my SARK books at some point, too. [I borrowed a copy of Inspiration Sandwich for this series from a friend not so silly as to get rid of her book.] I think I was embarrassed to have them, although over the past year that’s changed again – I care less about what people think, especially if they are someone who just happens to see my bookshelf.
So, here’s the deal: in 4-5 posts over the next two weeks, I’m going to explore Inspiration Sandwich again. I will try out some of her suggested ways to free my creative spirit – making a good faith effort to see if there’s anything to it and set my cynical side… well… aside.
My sister also owns SARK books and she said that, when she briefly lived in London after college, she and a friend would do “dramatic readings” from the books as a form of entertainment because they were broke and had no TV. SARK does cry out to be parodied – I wish I had their readings on video – and it’s hard to know where her touchy-feely approach fits in today. However, at least for now, snark towards SARK is not my aim.
That may or may not come later… Stay tuned.
A SARK bibliography:
There are a slew of SARK books now but back when I was into it, there was:
* NOTE: The title I’ve chose for my ongoing series, Living By the Book, is also the title of an actual book about, you guessed it, the Bible. Specifically, it’s about how to read and decipher the Bible so that Scripture can transform your life. Living By the Book could be part of the Living By the Book series! But I’d need to drink a lot of whiskey first. In the meantime, I thought I’d acknowledge the book and also say that this project is in no way affiliated with it nor is it about reading the Bible.
Got suggestions for future Living By the Book experiments? Let’s hear them!