Amsterdam always feels a bit like a second home (or I guess third home at this point) when I visit. It’s tricky to navigate around the canals and busy streets of the city center, but all the missteps land you in interesting new areas and in unexplored shops and restaurants.
Looking back, one lesson I learned while in Amsterdam was that although it’s true that art inspires art, sometimes one requires an absence of art to be inspired. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing. Let me explain.
From the moment I arrived in Amsterdam, I was engulfed by artistic inspiration and creativity. Besides travelling with two incredibly artistic and inspiring pals, it was the city’s walls soaked in street art, classical museums, melodic sounds of buskers flooding the streets, and liberal attitudes towards self-expression that lit my spirit and began convincing me I should move into an artist commune and chop off my ear for the sake of my writing.
With all these avenues for artistic expression, I thought from day one that I’d be filled with inspiration to write, draw, sing, repeat. Though Dave, Jessie, Gary, and I did a lot of singing, the other two were in short supply from me.
Since encountering a few major writer’s blocks in the past couple years, I become incredibly nervous when I go through periods of a disinterest in writing. I tend to think well, I had a good run I guess. I should just accept defeat and hang up my pen. But being in Amsterdam reminded me that sometimes the best art comes from these creative dry spells.
Wandering NDSM—or “Art Island”, a 10 minute ferry ride from mainland Amsterdam—gave me some perspective on the creative process I tend to forget. Great works of art often come from a paint tray of random colours and bouts of instantaneous inspiration. I’m no believer in God, but inspiration is occasionally akin to a spirit that comes to your aid suddenly in a time of need, then leaves you in a quick burst. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just how it works.
There have been periods in my life where all I want to do is hole myself up in an isolated room and let my fingers fly wild across a keyboard, but oftentimes what I write makes no sense or doesn’t have the meaning behind it that I wanted it to. Looking back, many pieces of writing I’ve been most proud of have bloomed from ideas I’ve had while walking down the street, that got quickly jotted into a notebook or on a napkin. You can’t force inspiration I think, it just comes to you.
So when I look back on Amsterdam, at first I’m sad I didn’t take any time to write. But then I realise, hey dude, you had a pretty friggin fantastic and inspiring time even though you didn’t want to write about it then.
When I was in the city I was sad that the writer’s block was in full effect, but looking back on it now I’m glad I used my time to be with my friends and focus on enjoying my surroundings. I mean, as much as I’d like to say there was some spiritual, higher power convincing me to take every moment of the trip as it comes instead of worrying about writing, it was actually probably just all that weed I smoked, aye?