In college, I took a course on the history of the Bible and decided I’d become a prophet. Jeremiah and Isaiah might face their share of ridicule and scorn, but they had the ear of God. Even better, they had the words of God. They never lacked for inspiration.
Instead, I became a writer, and a teacher, and a mom. I don’t always have a graceful word, let alone one with power.
Sometimes, ideas spring from everywhere at once, too quickly for my pen or fingers. On other days, I am thwarted by a blinking cursor. I’ve wondered if I could bribe the dog to write for me, feed him biscuits to pat the keyboard with his paws. Maybe he’d have better luck.
It’s the same with homeschooling and mothering. Occasionally, our kitchen-table lessons are swift and easy, filled with raw enthusiasm. I find the right balms for growing pains, infuse the day with humor, and my daughters smile with their entire selves.
On other days, I clench my jaw while the girls whine and wiggle and complain about the number eight or a cursive Y. There are evenings when I tally my mistakes and realize that I’ve yelled too often, been too impatient, failed to celebrate the moment.
I’ve struggled, in every role I have, to unlock the doors to inspiration. And I know I’m not alone. Inspiration can be scarce, or it can burst through, overwhelming.
On our worst days — as artists, parents, and human beings — every idea is brittle, warped, or gone. We dig, and summon nothing. Failure hovers like a cloud.
On our best days, ideas come faster than we can scoop them up. They pop and sizzle brightly. Genius beckons from the corners.
It’s easy to imagine that insiration is unpredictable, out of our control. It comes. It goes. We’re stuck somewhere in the transit lane, waiting for a pick-up.
Unless we take the wheel. Unless we gather pockets full of resources.
In a recent blog post, “The Most Unsexy Trait of Successful Writers (and Other Humans)”, Judy Dunn makes a great case for cold, hard labor, for putting in the hours, not worrying about — or waiting for — inspiration. She’s right, I think, that “inspiration isn’t enough,” but I disagree that “inspiration is the easy part.” There are too many grey days of the mind. Hard work is essential yes, but it’s not enough. Hard work is the protein and the veggies, not the chocolate ganache. That’s the flavor of inspiration.
In the months since my concussion, I’ve had to enter each day differently. Some are good. Some are not. I’ve had to be creative in my problem solving — find tutors to help with homeschooling, rely on friends for childcare and dog walks, enlist my critique partner for nearly-endless edits. I’ve turned to audio books and podcasts when my eyes refuse to focus. I’ve found a way around.
I’ve filled my pockets, learned some tricks.
In a new series, called “Be Inspired”, I’ll be sharing some of my best sources for inspiration, for the days when even the dog won’t type. I’ll also be interviewing people who inspire me, to find out what inspires them. It’s not prophecy, I know, but I hope you’ll Be Inspired.
If you have a topic you’d like me to explore in this series on inspiration, a person you think I should interview, or an idea for a guest post you’d like to write, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!