Thursday, December 8, 2011


We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing.  Action always generates inspiration.  Inspiration seldom generates action.  ~Frank Tibolt

The most common questions I'm asked, when people inquire about my blogs, revolve around where I find my inspiration. People want to know if I make notes when special events pop up, and if I have a special writing ritual. Do I write for a certain number of hours each day? Do I only write in the morning? Do I keep a journal? What incites me to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) when a thought pops into my head? Do I pitch anything, or do I keep it all? In short, how do I do what I do? 

The short answer is "yes" to all of those queries. I do make notes, when I think about it. I do prefer writing in the morning, though I don't have a time minimum or maximum, and if the muse descends at 2 am, I'll write then. I do keep a journal, although it's mainly written in shorthand notes that even I have trouble deciphering.  I'm inspired by art, by books, by my family, by the circumstances in my life, by exercise, by rest, by food, by friends, by music, by films, by nature and by just about everything else in the world around me. I write whatever is on my mind, and if I think it's not ridiculous, I'll keep working on it. If I think it's dreadful, I'll delete it. I like writing with a cup of coffee by my side, but it's not absolutely necessary. 

The next question, after the "how do you write?" curiosity, is the bigger one: "Why do you write?".  This is the far more complicated posit. I've always written. From the time I was very young, before I had the power of spelling at my disposal, I created little books with drawings on each page. I was able to tell the story to the viewer. Writing has been my medium of choice for communication. I'm an abysmal talker and tend to babble when awkward silences fall. I can't think of the right things to say during countless situations, and therefore, end up with my foot in my mouth, having spoken exactly the wrong thing. I wish, far too frequently, that I could recall my words, just as a fisherman might reel in a line that's been cast astray. Words, once spoken, can never be taken back. 

When I write, I feel as if my voice is the way I want it to sound. If I make an error, it's an error that, at the very least, I've given some consideration. The written word provides me the ability to convey my thoughts in an edited, contemplative manner.  I can delete. I can enhance. I can recreate. I can discover that a tangent is far more intriguing than the original idea. I can let go of all ubiquitous strains, or I can embrace them.  By writing, I can learn what I'm truly thinking and where my heart indeed rests. It gives me a window into my soul, my psyche and my subconscious. I learn more about myself, by reading my own writing, than I possibly could in any other way. Writing, for me, is much like meditation in this way. 

Sharon O'Brien, author and noted Willa Cather scholar, wrote "Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say." I quite agree with her. When I sit down to write, the words often take me by surprise. I'm just as excited to see what my fingers type as I would be to sit down and read a novel by another writer. It's a fascinating process to me and I'm often amazed by what emerges. I might sit down with the inspiration for one piece, and another seems to flow right out. I'm always interested in what I'll say next because I learn and grow each time.

"Why do I write?" is the big question. "Because I must" is the answer.

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