11 January 2012


What inspires you?

For me, it's easier to define what doesn't inspire. Prime-time TV. Fox News. Whiny people. Mean people.

The flip side -- what's truly inspiring -- is less easily identified. I just know it when I see it. Or when it hits me. (Yeah, sometimes it hurts.) Some things are obvious, like books or articles by my favorite authors, or art, or music. A zen koan that lands exactly where it fits best, when I least expect anything at all to fit. The taste of a new dish that I expect to be good, but that turns out to be blow-me-away, unforgettably delectable.

A color. A texture. A skein of variegated yarn that begs to be touched, worked, transformed into something useful.

A couple of weeks ago, I started idly noting the odd fixtures of my daily commute, and before I knew it, the notes and observations had begun to evolve into a poem. Who would think a person could be inspired by the stuff that comes out of the power company's waste-disposal smokestacks? But the color of that stuff just shouted a particular turn of phrase that wouldn't be quiet.

Real inspiration isn't just a good idea that takes root. It's an idea that locks itself onto your creativity and won't let go. Like a snapping turtle -- it won't turn loose until it thunders. You have to use it; you have no choice. If you don't, it will drive you crazy, like the stupid pop song that gets stuck in your head.

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