Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On Inspiration, and How the Three Day Guest Rule Doesn't Apply.

It never ceases to amaze me how inspiration strikes. Of course there are all the usual places (like sitting on my couch and drinking coffee, which seems to be a standard for artists) but once in a while, inspiration happens in such an awkward way that you can't help but take notice.

I just got back from a stellar trip to Auburn, Alabama, where I attended a writing conference for the first time and totally got back into student-mode faster than you can say "MFA wanna-be." In particular, I loved my short story workshop and my poetry workshop; both the instructors were really cool; I bought their books and got them both signed. It was a great trip, and I'm thankful for all the interesting trips I've taken this year -- Nashville, Florida, Charlotte, Auburn -- but when I got back, my friends kept asking me what I wrote while I was in Auburn. And the truth is, I didn't write much, except for workshop notes on how to craft poems and stories. I was like a sponge there, soaking it all up so I could wring it out later when the time was right.

One incident of this "wringing" came a week later, when I had the annoying and disappointing experience of driving 40 minutes in traffic to see this dude I was quasi-interested in, only to have him announce to me that he was "smitten" with someone else. It was not a big deal (I barely knew him) but really, what a waste of gas -- he could have texted that before I got on 526 during rush hour, right?!?

Anyhoo, so I went and had a drink by myself, feeling sulky. And lo! before I knew it, I had my phone out, typing an entire section of my memoir on the bar top, wishing I'd brought actual pen and paper so people wouldn't think I was texting someone with that furiously engaged look on my face.

Another time in the last week, I was fretting over the fact that I had not written so much as an introduction for a magazine article that was due right away. Then, Saturday morning while I was babysitting my best friend's son, I had this incredible first sentence pop into my head while I was lounging in their front yard, soaking up the autumn rays. Again, I got my phone out and typed a few lines (I've become quite the pro at emailing myself phone memos) and felt thrilled to have the hardest part of the article finished. Because, really, once you write a killer first paragraph, the rest just tumbles out.

For as many years as I've been a writer, none of this should surprise me. I know good and well that inspiration is like a butterfly, true love, boiling water or anything else that arrives when you aren't watching the doorway like an overeager freak. So maybe it's not surprise I'm feeling after all. Maybe it's joy at inspiration's arrival.

She's one guest in my life whose welcome is never worn out. In fact, I think I'd let inspiration rent my walk-in closet or couch-surf for as long as she wants to stay with  me.

Auburn's campus. 

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