It’s taken me a long time to write this post because although I find inspiration insanely interesting, I think the truth is I’m a little scared of it. It’s so skittish I sometimes feel that if I speak too loud I’ll scare it away. It’s an almost superstitious relationship I have with my inspiration even though I’m not usually a superstitious person. Inspiration makes me want to knock on wood, carry a lucky charm, cross my fingers. I feel like my inspiration is a thing that’s not really a part of me, even though that’s a ludicrous notion.
The idea of inspiration is completely fascinating to me. I often wonder why it takes the shapes it does. How can one person be lyrically inspired while another is more visual? Where does inspiration come from? Is it just our minds solving problems in an artistic way or is there something more at work—some divine muse perhaps? Probably not.
My inspiration is definitely skittish. I’m a one-trick-at-a-time pony. I work hard to find stories and once I have them I wrestle with them until they take shape, become a real thing. Then I write them and BAM, they’re done and it’s almost as if they were never mine in the first place. It’s a fleeting relationship.
I say I work hard to find my stories and it’s the truth, but I probably shouldn’t. Some studies suggest that inspiration is more of an unbidden experience, that it just happens when you’re open and observing, and I find that to be completely true. Most of my stories sneak up behind me when I’m not looking, but even still I can’t relax enough to wait for them. I get impatient and start searching and that just stresses me out and probably slows down the whole process. It’s just who I am though—impatient for inspiration.
As for finding stories, they live everywhere. I find most of them outside on long, meandering thinky kind of walks. They hide in corners and they tend to only take form when I look at them directly. My stories exist in a quantum state, subject to the observer effect.
Stories are like sacred objects—meaningless until we fill in the blanks, assign them a mythology. Nothing in the world ever started out as anything of specific significance, but when we humans get our hands on things we tend to try to make them profound. Humans are great for making the mundane sacred. And that’s all a story is; a moment, a concept or an object made profound by a writer.
I constantly struggle with my inspiration and every time I finish a story or a novel I tell myself I won’t push the next idea. I’ll keep myself open and just let it come to me. But that never works for long, I get stressed about my lack of inspiration and go looking. Sometimes I’m fruitful and sometimes I just depress myself. I guess I have an artistic temperament—ever the tortured soul searching for my next sacred story.
Inspiration is an amazing thing but it can also be insanely frustrating.
So I’ll just have to cross my fingers and wish on a star that my next story finds me before I have to go out looking for it.