I am surprised by how many sources of inspiration for writing exist. They are endless, in fact. My brain is like a Pavlovian dog: when the figurative bell of an idea rings, I have to write. I post many stories that are jump-started with a photo prompt. I see it and a story comes in full force. I write quickly; time vanishes. But there are other things that release words. Inspiration does its job, whether or not the outcome is acceptable or not.
I decided to share some of this process with you, kind reader. Here are some examples of inspiration, each of which has given rise to a sentence, paragraph or whole story or poem:
1-a client (I counseled folks) talking about his advanced cirrhosis
2-awakening to saws whirring and garbage trucks clunking
3-an aged woman with a black headscarf studying a bag of chili peppers
4-a stranger’s hands that looked like my deceased father’s
5-a photo of an Italian alley with laundry hanging outside a window
6-the various erratic rhythms of my heart
7-a mouse giving my calico cat an evening of comical chase
8-my cello, cracked and silent
9-the scents of daphne, moss, Shalimar
10-a rose gold ring in the gutter
Anything can be an excuse to write. Rain at three in the morning. A daughter’s wild hair. Ghosts felt in a hotel. A beetle; I am fascinated by bugs. Music, any. No matter the nudges, words choose me more often than I choose them. When I revise what has been written, I am conscientious about my choices, scrupulous enough to re-write many hours more than it took to first write a piece. But when I pick up my pen or pencil or pound away on a keyboard, something has struck me–moved, confounded, delighted, disturbed me. I might not be able to identify the sense or sensibility of it at first, but there it is. It is requiring presence of mind and response. I take its essence into me, examine its depths and breadth. Look for its wily ways. Seek the mystical moment. Feel shocked by dangerous emotions. Compelled by strangeness. But I rarely am empty of a desire to open myself to life, then to liberate language to speak of it.
I am in love. Stories beguile me.
My husband, Marc, and I both enjoy language that performs in many ways. When watching t.v. we sometimes entertain ourselves with deconstruction of a commercial message. Or we recreate them so they seem more interesting (to us) and have a laugh. I once wished I had gone into advertising; I am fascinated how words and images incite us to think and react–or not. Last night when we were watching television, an ad came on about medication. It was not remarkable. It was for pain relief. A colorful image flashed onto the screen that seemed to depict a cross section of a nerve but, then, maybe not.
“What was that supposed to be?” I asked Marc.
“Hmm, maybe a hip joint? Looked like sinew that felt really bad.”
“Maybe the inside of pain? Red and yellow. What were those cylindrical things? Rods or tunnels of pain? Darts bleeding pain…”
Marc nodded. “Someone standing on her pain? Creature of pain?”
“How about: You follow me right into my pain. Or, I can’t get away from you inside my pain. Gosh, sounding like a country song…”
“A little more ‘singer-songwriter’ to me… I like it.”
“Hmm, maybe something else.”
I grabbed my red notebook and started to write.
So, in the interest of sharing that writing foray, I have included what resulted. It’s the first page of a poem with few self-edits.This is what happened after a commercial for pain medication that targeted people with chronic pain. Is it about physical or emotional pain, the body or a relationship? It is just an exercise; it may lead to something good, at least a few sentences. It was fun and took a simple idea to an extreme, which can lead to a mess of nothing worth keeping. Still, writing anything at all counts; it is practice. I wrote about fifteen minutes, non-stop. It was not what I might have predicted. I am a writer and we first write without restraint, hoping a phrase or two sings. You never know until you set it down on paper (of one sort or another).
You follow me to the inside of my pain.
I cannot lose you, not even in
the darkest well of this hurt.
My pain is damaged by your hands and face,
your thieving words a terrible echo.
My pain is papered with your name.
You are the cruel architect of a refuge
my pain has sought for only rest.
But it is inhabited by your acts of unkindness.
I know now you cannot find your way
back to the hallowed ground,
that small dominion of the humble
where the loving become beloved.
What will be the apex of your life
as you leave this place where
you once lay down your weaknesses?
Perhaps you are sinking into
the vortex of a soul that’s forgotten
its function, its blameless shape.
What is left you, in this ending?
The pain you make has left a
widening wake and still, you float.
You cannot even be a stone;
a stone has a history
of a life lived long and well.
No, you somehow slip the bonds
of devotion like a leaf abandons the branch,
then goes where it will.
You come here where there is no room.
I breathe an incendiary pain,
mind creased with memories,
hands full of ash,
my heart flattened to the wall
when once it filled the sky.
This is a point of no return, and
in a blink of power who I was
is gone and I become someone with
no good name. Senseless. Transparent.
Riven with grief,
inside the bone and blood of me,
undefended and indefensible.
But now with your stamp upon it,
this pain is no longer recognized,
no longer welcome;
I will not claim it if you must
set the seal of your denial here.
Then it becomes yours to ruin,
to own or upend.
Take as you take, without guilt.
I leave this rich ache of pain
for another, a greater world.
I am moving my heart into the universe:
you cannot find me in your state.
In the interior of my living
pain will not want to speak of you,
I will travel past the vastness of it.
There will not be one corner
left for you.