Every day, I work from a private studio. Here I collaborate with writers, work on my own writing, and obsess about the creative process.

Dan Blank

On the wall in front of me are photos of writers, artists and creators who inspires me:

I want to share the story behind four of those photos today.

Here is a young Chuck Berry:

It can be said that rock n’ roll didn’t have a single “inventor” and you can trace back it’s origins to many different people. But if there is one person I would point to who truly represented the birth of rock ‘n roll, someone who was the first to define so many aspects of it, it would be Chuck Berry. When I look at a photo of young Chuck Berry, it is astounding to consider all of the things he will create. The music he will write. The way he will define a music, performance, and cultural style. It is a reminder that every child and every adult has this potential. Not just to succeed, but to create something that will turn the world on its head. Thank you Chuck Berry.

Here is Jiro Ono (second from left):

He is the sushi chef made famous in the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” Today he is 93 years old, and likely still showing up to his restaurant and preparing sushi for his customers. Just has he has done for most of the last century. Think about that: he does the same thing today as he has done in 1987, 1968, 1951. His work is a reminder that the creative process is a practice. One you have to show up for each day. That the work only gets deeper the longer you do it. You don’t rise to some plateau, and then coast. You keep showing up. You keep honing your craft. You keep growing as a person. You keep delighting those who appreciate your work. Thank you Jiro.

This is Vivian Maier:

She too was made famous in documentary, “Finding Vivian Maier.” She worked as a nanny from the 1950s through the 1990s. Why is she on my wall? Because during that time of caring for children, she often carried a camera with her. In her lifetime, she took more than 150,000 photos, most of them what we would now call “street photography.” She captured poignant images of people she saw in everyday life around Chicago. Today, it’s not hard to imagine taking 150,000 images with your phone. Each photo has no cost, and you can take a decent photo with your eyes closed. But Vivian took these images on film, on a camera that likely only shot 10 pictures per roll, while also caring for children and going about her daily work. Vivian teaches me that each of us — regardless of how the world sees us — can create work of captivating beauty using the most ordinary of tools. In our lifetimes, we can create a body of work that will inspire others for generations, even if we get no credit for it while living. Thank you Vivian.

This is Jeanne-Claude and Christo:

They have created large scale works of art. I saw them speak in 2004 just before they opened a new work called “The Gates.” At the time, I was enamored with the artists, but skeptical of The Gates. Their idea was to line the paths of Central Park in Manhattan with 7,500 structures that you could walk through. These looked like awkward rectangles that had a piece of orange fabric hanging down from each. To me, it seemed like a strange idea to have spent so much time and money on. They began the project in 1979 and it took 25 years to convince the city to allow them to do it. A few months later when I was able to finally experience The Gates, I realized how mistaken I was. the experience they created was magical. I had walked through Central Park many times before, but this experience was wholly different. The Gates encouraged you to explore the park in new ways. I found myself pushing ahead to see how the landscape was changed because of these objects. But what jumped out at me even more was how The Gates changed human interaction. Normally in Central Park, you try not to get mugged. But when The Gates were there, everyone was happy. You met new people. You connected with strangers over art. It was incredible. Thank you Jeanne-Claude and Christo.

There are many other photos on the wall of my studio, and many more that need to be added. But I’m curious:

Who inspires you to create? Whose story helps you hone your creative process and push yourself ahead even amidst setbacks? Whose photos should hang on your wall?