Thursday, August 30, 2007

Writers find inspiration like a penny on the sidewalk

I came across this statue at Marywood Retreat as I finished interviews for a newspaper story. I'll gaze at the photo tacked to my bulletin board until, one day, my pen will begin to crawl across my notebook.

I was interviewing an author this morning for my Web Savvy column, and I mentioned inspiration. To me, the process is sort of like finding a penny on the sidewalk. Since I was a girl, I’ve checked first to see whether the coin was heads up or down. Heads up meant pick the coin up, pocket it and wait for good luck to follow. Sometimes I’d make a wish. Heads down meant pass on the coin.

Inspiration is very much like that penny on the sidewalk. You often encounter it unexpectedly, and you still don’t know what to expect from the encounter until you take a closer look. Despite the overwhelming creative bent, this is a key approach to running my business. I call myself a writer, but what keeps me working rests on the information I can provide and craft. The more unique the information and the more unique the style, the chances for publication rise. By unique style, I don’t mean writing the pronoun ‘I’ in lower case or paring away all the modifiers. I mean the way the piece sounds to someone’s ear, how the person’s brain perceives the information.

Poets and writers can often be on inspiration overload. Once you train the eye and brain, opportunities for creating a work of art from words abound. I’ve sold several pieces related to kumquats, all because I discovered those peculiar little fruits as a girl and many years later, bumped into a kumquat tree for the first time as we shopped at a plant nursery. A polychrome sculpture of the Virgin Mary in an art museum in South Carolina almost got me arrested. I sat for so long in the room containing the statue, the security guard began to hover. That experience led me to write a poem that is one of the only poems I’ve written that satisfies me, and it was included in my last collection. Newspapers and old cookbooks, my husband and daughters, my dog, my chicken and my cat have also spurred my pen to write poetry and prose. And the relationship with my mother is a veritable gold mine.

When I speak to groups, people often ask me if I get writer’s block. I have to say I don’t. It is true that sometimes I just don’t really feel very inspired. But if I gaze around my writing room long enough, something is bound to shine, just like that penny on the sidewalk.

To read a sampler of works I've published, visit my page at Media Bistro.

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