Inspiration Series – Jim Murray


I have been a writer since the age of 17. I was first inspired to write when I left my original home in Fort Erie to go and live with my dad and his wife Diana in Ottawa. I wrote my first poem in a letter to my then girlfriend Sandy Sparks who lived in Tonawanda, which Is a suburb of Buffalo. We eventually realized that living almost 500 miles apart really sucked, and so we drifted away from each other. But during that period I became a dedicated poet and man of letters of sorts.

All through college and my early working days, living downtown in Toronto with my Ottawa pal, John Wild, I wrote. I wrote poetry. I wrote essays, I wrote short stories. Many of them were influenced by the writers and songwriters I worshiped with like John Updike, Phillip Roth and Saul Bellow, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Leonard Cohen and Tim Hardin to name but a few.

I continued to write after I married and eventually got into writing advertising as a profession. During the 7th year of my marriage, we were living in Rosedale in Gordon Lightfoot’s coach house, and I had a chance to present some of the lyrics I was writing to Gord’s guitar player and a great songwriter, Terry Clemens. I thought I was pretty hot shit at the time, but Terry and his wife Roz sat me down and told me the truth. They said that my lyrics very good but were highly derivative and that I was emulating all of my influences. This was a big shock to my system, mainly because it was true. I went into a bit of a tailspin and it had huge ramifications in all parts of my life.

But the one thing I remembered, in all the emotional chaos which ensued, was Terry and Roz telling me that I had all the talent necessary to do anything I wanted, and I even had a lot of the discipline required to pull it off….but what I needed to do was find my own voice.

I have to admit that I had never really looked at the work I was doing in that way. A lot of us don’t. It never occurs to us to do that, as we are generally too busy creating to think about the philosophy of what we are doing. We automatically assume our point of view is our own and well, unique.

This revelation, as it sunk into my head, caused me to go through what most people would call a breakdown. I felt my spirit shattering into a million pieces. I was weak and helpless, both physically and mentally for several months. It took its toll on my wife, my work and a lot of other stuff too.

But the spirit is a lot like mercury and eventually the shattered droplets of my spirit met up with each other and reformed. One day I woke up and for the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt inspired. Not by anything I had read or heard or seen, but by something deep in my brain that was trying like hell to get out. My voice. Or at least I hoped it was.

This moment of inspiration led directly to the writing of this lyric, which even 35 years later still feels genuine to me and very much indicative of a pure moment of inspiration stated in what I feel to be my own voice.


So much to do…so little time
So many mountains I’ve yet to climb
So many ups…so many downs
So many people …so little common ground

So many words pass through my pen
So much starting all over again
In a world where nothing ever seems real
It’s hard to touch what you truly feel

So many children
See how they grow
So much to tell them
Before they know
How to believe in a
World gone wrong
How to sing out
When they feel their own song
How to hold onto hope
When all the love seems dead and gone

So many people I’ve yet to know
So many heartaches yet to lay me low
So much confusion to suffer through
So many broken dreams before one comes true

So much to do in a single life
Too little harmony and too much strife
All we can do is fight the good fight
And hold onto each other tonight

So many lovers
How they come and go
You think you’re close to them
But do you ever know
Just what secrets
They have to hide
Just how much love
They have been denied
Just what they might
Really be feeling inside

So much to do…so little time
So many mountains I’ve yet to climb
So much to do…so much to say
I’ve got the fever and it won’t go away

This lyric was the linchpin for a number of things. Among them, one rather overwritten novel, a dozen screenplays, an editorial column called The Couch Potato Chronicles, which I wrote for 10 years and a lyric book that houses about 350 finished pieces. I don’t really care too much what happens to these pieces because I wrote them on the 40 year adrenaline rush that finally finding my own voice has provided for me. I write solely for the joy of it and I am lucky that way. If something comes of all this, great. If not….well there’s always my commercial writing, which I am very good at.

The piece below is the last piece I wrote, just a few weeks ago. And this is what I wrote about it.

Today I had an inspiration while I was riding back from Loblaws. (proof that these things can happen anywhere). It was just a line that popped into my head. “There’s a fire burning hot in the night”. I have been thinking a lot lately about the resilience of the human spirit, in the face of sociopathic corporations, soulless governments, compassionless bureaucracies and bullshit institutions that all work to break us down and make us fearful and subservient. And about how life has become about rising above all that crap to be your own dog, so to speak.

So I started thinking on that in more depth and this is the result. Still a bit rough around the edges, but the thought is expressed…a combination of inspiration leading to perspiration, powered by dedication.


There’s a fire burning hot in the night
There’s a fire burning wild and bright
Everything that wants to live takes flight
From the fire burning hot in the night

There’s a fear burning deep in your soul
Always makes you feel out of control
Keeps you half a man, never whole
There’s a fear burning deep in your soul

There’s fire burning hot as the sun
There is nowhere anybody can run
Time to face the demons as they come
From the fire burning hot as the sun

Cause there’s a fire that burns the world clean
And that fire will destroy the machine
That devours everybody’s dreams
There’s a fire that burns the world clean

There’s hope you carry in your heart
And it causes all your fear to depart
It makes every new day a brand new start
It’s your own flame that sets you apart

There’s a fire that never burns out
Six billion voices, hear them shout
We’re comin’ for you so you’d better watch out
Because our fire will never burn out…

As you can see, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the first original lyric I wrote and the last one. There are a lot of intellectual highways I drove down in between then and now, but hopefully the tales of those journeys have been expressed in my own voice.

Jim Murray is a writer, art director, communication strategist and producer. He is also a screenwriter, lyricist and editorial columnist. He has spent pretty much all of his adult life in the marketing and communications business and writing all kinds of other stuff. He is basically an all round creative person. He is the father of Star Spider who is also a writer and Dan Murray who is a professional baker and bakery manager. He is extremely proud of both his kids. He has been married to his wife Heather since the time of Jesus. He loves to read spy thrillers. He loves good TV, pro sports and cycling. He is a very tightly wired individual, who always lets his opinions be known. His company is called Onwords & Upwords and the company name is his personal philosophy.

Contact Info & Links

Direct Line: 416 463-3475
Email: jim@onandup.ca or onandup3@gmail.com
Web Site: http://www.onandup.ca
Editorial/Promotional Blog: http://onwordsandupwords.wordpress.com
SME Presentation: http://tinyurl.com/lnrp3fg
LinkedIn Profile: http://tinyurl.com/pxlsvbe
Download my EBook, Small Business Communications For The Real World:

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