On Inspiration

Over the past few years I’ve gone through something of a “dry-spell” with my writing, especially when it comes to being inspired with new projects.  In my younger days, while simply walking down the street, words would come to me, but that seemed to have all stopped in recent years.  Some said it was because I’m busier now, learning how to take care of a new baby (now a toddler) and getting the hang of living in a new place.

But I’ve always been busy.  So I couldn’t make sense of it.

However, over the past few weeks, as I walked the paths of my childhood through the Carolina lowcountry, I felt a whispering within me that I haven’t felt in a long time, an eagerness to put words to paper (we’ve officially got a new work-in-progress, by the way!).  As I walked through the shelter of shady oaks, I felt a level of serenity I still have trouble finding the words to describe.  There, in that place, the words just come to me, into my mind, and I think seriously about becoming one of those people who always have a little notebook with them, crazy hair and ink-stained fingertips. But what does it all mean?

Inspiration.  I’m inspired here.  But why?

Although I consider myself a writer, I have never really been one to consider myself an artist.  That designation, I figure, is reserved for the true poets, and for the deep thinkers with a genuine mastery of the written word.  But me–I’m more reflective, I guess.  I use my writing to appreciate the art I see around me (and the whole world is a masterpiece, by the way, so I have lots to write about). Even now, I don’t think of myself as an “artist.” Maybe I have too lofty a notion of the word. So why do I need inspiration?  There had to be more to it.

I thought about this as I sat on a cramped flight back to Phoenix from Charleston with a toddler on my lap, steadfastly refusing sleep as she watched an episode of Princess Sofia on silent for the third time. And here’s what I’ve come to conclude: it all comes down to feelings.  At first, I supposed I felt inspired back home in South Carolina because I was surrounded by beauty, by rivers and ocean waves, by swaying Spanish moss and whispering old oaks.  And that is partly true–just ask any writer or artist who has had the pleasure of spending time on the magical Southern coast.  But more than the beauty, deeper than all of that, was the feeling within me when surrounded by these things.  The familiarity of it.  The peace and contentment of childhood somehow seeped back into me, I relaxed, and the creativity could flow.

I strongly believe that in childhood emotions are at their most pure, if not most appreciated, and for that reason there is a certain serenity inspired by the places one spent growing up.  I spent my youngest years roving the riverbanks of Beaufort, South Carolina, skipping freely along the dangerously tabby sidewalks of the Waterfront Park and tiptoeing precariously through Port Royal marsh mud in search of fiddler crabs.  Countless memories of hours on porch swings, building atrociously unsturdy forts in the trees, and simply walking alongside members of my family meld together to form a sense of genuine happiness and contentment that I felt at that time, unknowingly.  Now, as an adult, I can add to that the sweet moments of falling in love, getting married, and starting a new life with my best friend.  I can still see my husband there, kneeling on that same tabby sidewalk that had scraped my childish knees, asking me to marry him as a morning breeze blew in across the river.  Those feelings are not only within me, but there, in that place, preserved forever.

And although that inspiration is indeed wrapped up in the place, somehow along the way, during the last few years, I had forgotten that, more importantly, they are within me, and I carry them always.  I can have that feeling, that inspiration and serenity, even now.  In the desert. (womp womp).

As I had this realization I looked down at my daughter, who had finally succumbed to sleep (it only lasted 30 minutes, by the way), and I noticed how long her dark eyelashes were, and how sweetly they rested on her round cheeks–just as they had done when she was a baby.  My mind relaxed, I was content, and I could feel the words start to come, as I wanted to preserve the moment.  Only now the words in my mind felt deeper, more resounding, and more mature.  More meaningful.

So, to sum up what has turned out to be a much-longer-than-expected blog post, it’s in the love, and the happiness that it brings.  The love is answer, the inspiration, and I don’t know why it has taken me so long to tap into it over the past few years.  I don’t doubt that my trip home had something to do with it–clarity begets clarity, after all.

But now that I’ve found my inspiration again, I felt the need to share, to encourage others to reflect on what makes them tick, and to find a way to carry their inspiration with them everywhere they go.