A touch of inspiration

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I knew I should have pulled over and written it down. All the way into work, the words just flowed. It was good stuff and I was learning as I spoke the words out loud, writing the imaginary article with my voice in an attempt to fix it in my mind. So many things just clicked into place, opening my eyes to shreds of understanding that came together in a perfect tapestry of glowing colours… There was no way I was going to forget this.

But. There’s always a but… The cat was waiting behind the glass of the door…and the door wouldn’t open. The keys were still in place on the inside. I couldn’t wiggle my key in far enough… and it was raining….then the cat needed to be fed and let out… and my son shouted through for coffee…. and by the time I had finally managed a moment to pick up a pen, the entire thing had gone, vanished as if it had never been.

Midway through the morning, with my hands full of soapy dishes, it flashed back into consciousness. I dropped the dishes, dried my hands and grabbed the pencil that is kept on the counter… and realised it had gone again. Completely. Not a single thread of thought joined one moment to the next… yet, I know it is still in there, hiding in the dusty corners of consciousness. Memory, even the memory of a thought, doesn’t disappear. It may be placed beyond our reach in the deepest dungeons of the mind, or the retrieval system may itself fail, but the memories remain.

They can be very good at hiding though.

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When inspiration strikes, it is elusive. Unless captured on the instant, it disappears into the depths of memory and may remain forever hidden. Writers are well used to this phenomenon. Most of us waft around with an assortment of pens and pencils, a notebook or three and have been known to scribble such thoughts down in weird and wonderful ways. The trouble is that when inspiration strikes while you are driving through rush hour traffic on a busy road, you cannot stop to scribble at all and it is both inadvisable and illegal to try to fiddle with the mobile phone’s voice recorder.

Fixing  a thought in memory by speaking it aloud often works. Sometimes, so does creating a visual scene for it in imagination and placing the words and concepts within it. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. Attention that has held the concept firmly in place is dragged away by events and the moment is lost.

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It isn’t just writing inspiration that comes that way though. The spiritual realisations come in a similar manner and are just as elusive. They can be even more difficult to pin down too as they are often so abstract that a single phrase encapsulates a whole world of meaning… and yet the phrase in itself means nothing; it is only a catalyst and a key, a crack in the doorway that lets the formless light of illumination flood in.

And then it is gone…and you feel as if, for a moment, you had been given the greatest of gifts, only to lose it in the mire.

Nothing is ever is wholly lost. Sometimes memories are placed beyond our reach by our own minds, by malfunction, or buried so deep in the archives that without the correct ‘file-path’ we can never find them again. Sometimes they are buried for a reason..perhaps to protect us from what we are not ready yet to remember or to know. But they are always there.

Just as a story may take years to come to fruition after the first seed of imagination emerges, so too, when the time is right and the ground fertile, will the seeds of inspiration thus planted germinate and bloom.

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42 thoughts on “A touch of inspiration

  1. Oh, this is so true. I do say the words out loud until I find pen and paper, Sue.And that feeling of what I call ‘the something else that lurks inside us’? For me it’s that occasional sense of peace and a realisation that ‘something’ keeps my world balanced.x

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  2. As my daughter advised, quite a few years ago, keep a small tape recorder( or whatever the more modern equivalent is) beside your bed, in the car, in the kitchen etc. So you can record your words fir later recall.
    Evelyn.

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    1. I always have the voice recorder on my mobile… and the ability to take notes. The troouble is when these things wait till you are driving and can’t stop or are up to the elbows in something you can’t leave.

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  3. It happens all the time. I sometimes compose paragraphs in my mind, and lose them quickly if I can’t jot them down somehow. I have a log of “prompts” that I keep, but the spark may be gone when I look at them later. Fascinating. As is your post, Sue. 💖 💘 💝

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  4. Elizabeth Gilbert (she of the amazing “Eat, Pray, Love” and the even more mesmerising “Signature of all Things”) writes in a recent book called “Big Magic” that these ideas for stories are actual entities that float around looking for a home and that if you don’t provide one in good time they may wander off in search of one elsewhere. She also relates an interesting account of how she believes that because she didn’t have time for such an idea, it passed to the mind of someone else who then wrote the story.

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  5. So true. And yet this is what is so baffling about writers like Borges and Pound who seemed able to remember whole screeds of stuff for writing down much later. I’ve no idea how they did it.

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  6. This happens to me all the time! Ugh. I keep a notebook by my bed and have been known on many occasions to pull into a parking lot or side road to jot a few sentences on the back of a receipt. When I lose them, Sue, they are GONE. I remember the feeling of the perfect prose or dialog, the spiritual insight, but I can’t recapture it. Reciting aloud helps, but sometimes that isn’t even enough!

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  7. One time I was sitting by the pool with Dom and got up and rushed into the house to write something down. Poor Dom he came rushing in behind me to make sure I was alright. Inspiration strikes me so often when I take my morning walk that I now stop and dictate into the phone the ideas. I look a little crazy but at least I haven’t lost it.

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  8. Boy do I know that one, driving and inspiration strikes. I’ve pulled over a few times, pulled out my phone and recorded my thoughts for safekeeping until I could transform them on paper. It’s like our best ideas also come late at night in bed. I’ve started writing a new book recently that I haven’t worked on for almost 2 months and tonight I was listening to a program while cooking dinner and something that was said sparked an amazing book idea. I shut of the fry pan and went directly to my journal and wrote down 2 pages of outline for another new book.
    We never know where inspiration will strike, and one thing’s for sure, half hour later, those magnificent moments can completely elude us. 🙂 Great post. x

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  9. You have hit on a universal truth for all writers in this article Sue, every word I was going… God I know! And your other truth is that when you lose the inspired article you thought of inthe 1st instance and eventually rewrite it. It turns out ever better!

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  10. Are you sure it wasn’t just a senior moment? Only joking! I do know exactly what you mean. Though I tend to think that, if it’s important enough, the subconscious will find a way of letting that thought or idea float back to the surface. And if it’s not, then lots more ideas will come to replace that one anyway. Whether that’s true or not is a different matter, but it gives me a sense of peace rather than frustration

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    1. It wouldn’t surprise me at all 🙂

      I agree though. Once the idea has arisen, it doesn’t really go anywhere except beyond conscious reach. It is in there and will be there in its own time if we reallyneed it.

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  11. I have lost many good stories driving, I keep thinking about putting a recorder in the car, but that thought seems to leave me also.

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