Where does inspiration come from? Shall I pen an ode to that fickle mistress? I won’t, because I’m not a Romantic poet (or a poet of any stripe), and also because inspiration is elusive and hard to describe. At least for this non-poet. But I’ll still try because blogging.
For me, inspiration arises in that moment when something snags in the inner recesses of my mind. It might be a dream, a song, a particular situation or the way the light falls across the wide-planked floors just so. There’s an awareness that this is something special, something I should write down. Then comes the mad scramble to find a pen and paper or text myself.
(This latter one always results in me sending a text to myself, then a moment later getting an alert that I have a new text, which leads to me thinking, “Oh, I wonder who’s texting me?!?” Every damned time.)
In whatever ways ideas come to me, they always arise from some kind of emotional resonance. There’s something in particular about that dream, song, situation or image that dredges up an achingly sweet tension, along with the need to describe, explore or capture that tension.
Here’s a recent favorite moment of inspiration: Two summers ago we were driving across southern Minnesota to a toy store near the banks of the Mississippi. The day was gorgeously foggy, the kind of mist that has me looking for druids out the car window. We wound through the hills and passed a small cemetery in a hollow. A question jumped into my head: What kind of person would be visiting a cemetery on a day like today? The image came just as fast, a determined 17-year-old who, as it turns out, can hear the dead.
I jotted down the image on a scrap of paper, put it in my purse…and promptly forgot about it for two months until I stumbled on the scrap of paper and thought, “oh hey, this would be a good novel.” It’s a good thing I occasionally clean out my purse: I just finished the third draft of that novel on Monday.