22 March 2011

Inspiration and the Bookstore Tradition

One of my favorite things to do is to spend several hours at a bookstore, reading all of the new magazines, journals, and books that I can. The goal is to come up with inspiration: new ideas for articles and blog posts, as well as ideas to stir the mind. This is one of the things that I picked up when I met with an editor at Teen Vogue in the summer of 2009. She began each day by sifting through dozens of newspapers and clipping or bookmarking articles and ideas that could be of use for her own work later on. She struck me as not only an extremely successful person (if you work at a national magazine, chances are high that you're a go-getter in every sense of the word), but an incredibly brilliant journalist. I'm already an intellectually curious person, but I definitely wanted to emulate what I saw in this editor even more.

What do I read when I camp out at the bookstore for a couple hours? Here are the titles that I'm most likely to sift through:

- Vogue (Obviously. I begin by writing down all of the changes to the masthead. For April, Anna hired lots of new folks, so I like to find out as much about those individuals as I can.)

- Condé Nast Traveler (This is one of my favorite travel magazines, so I always read it. I used to subscribe and probably will again. I find that the advice is a little more useful for my budget and travel style than upscale mags like T+L).

- Travel & Leisure (Even though the articles tend to cater to a higher income crowd, I still read this magazine each month.)

- National Geographic Traveler (I really love this magazine. I always come up with great ideas either for blog posts or for future travel initiatives.)

- Tricycle (I only recently began reading this Buddhist publication, but I absolutely love it. Great ideas, excellent advice, lots of information to stir the brain.)

- Vanity Fair (I never read all of the articles, but I enjoy analyzing the masthead and contributors.)

- Lucky (One doesn't so much read Lucky as look at the pictures of clothing, shoes, makeup, accessories, etc. I still come up with some interesting ideas after each perusal, though. I'm also enjoying seeing how the new EIC is transforming the magazine.)

- International editions of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Australian editions are my current favorites.

- The Atlantic (If I'm in the mood for some current events or political junk (which is rare), this is where I turn.)

- Women's Health (I haven't carried out my resolution to go to the gym, but I am curious to read about ways to eat healthier or maintain an overall healthier lifestyle. And, who knows, I might go to the gym one more time this year...though I doubt it.)

Then I make my way to the real treasures: the books. I always walk down the fiction and literature aisles, jotting down titles as I go. I also head to travel (of course!) and then Eastern Philosophy and Religion, which is my new area of interest. I think I wrote down at least five titles from the Buddhism and Tao shelves to request from my local library.

What kinds of notes am I left with after all of this reading and note-taking has finished (about two hours overall)? Well, yesterday I came across an article about the volcano in Iceland that I might write a letter to the editor in response to; I read about a bridal boutique in my area (featured in Lucky) that I'll probably check out either for personal reasons or for the blog; I jotted down two book titles that I'll be requesting from the library; I wrote down a few websites about eco-living that I'll want to check out; I came up with two more ideas for blog posts; and I ended up making a mad dash to the library to reserve more books on Buddhism. Who knows what ideas will pop into my head that I'll want to explore in greater detail after a mad reading session.

I write all of this to offer ideas that might inspire you, but also to wonder where your inspiration for writing, learning, and, well, living come from. So, what inspires you? What motivates you to rework your lifestyle, read new things, or experiment with different concepts?

Time is a precious luxury, so I know we're all committed to making the most out of the time we have!


  1. In the February (I think) Lucky, they did an article on the Short North! Way fun!

  2. Great post! I think it is important that we spend our time gaining more information about the topics that interest us. I've been finding links on my favorite websites where books and articles are referenced. One book I read suggested color-coding your favorite books, articles, etc. For instance, she highlights things pink that refer to her role as a woman in society. Or green could be an idea for blogging or a favorite quote. I really liked that idea!

  3. I love that idea, Leah! I'll have to seek out some of those bright Post-It strip things.

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