Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Word of the Day: Inspiration

Post by NCW Member Jennifer Carter

I rarely take the time to dissect words but I’m always glad when others do. Last night I started reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She begins with a section titled, appropriately enough, ”First Thoughts.” Not only are they some of her first thoughts in the book, she’s stressing the importance of simply sitting down to write, without letting the hand stop moving, without correcting, scratching out, or self-editing–just writing and going with it. These first thoughts of our own are fresh and inspiring. She points out then, that to “inspire” literally means to “breathe in.”

This stopped me in my tracks. I know what inspire means. I know what inspiration means. Or do I? It struck me then that inspiration is one of those words used so much that its true meaning has been left on the roadside somewhere back around Awesome-ville, thanks in no small part to REO Speedwagon. Or was it Chicago?

But I digress. Inspiration. Truly, the act of breathing in. Natalie calls it breathing in God. I think of it as breathing in life. Taking in fresh air. To inspire others is to fill them with air, like a creative CPR, so that we can carry on with our good work of writing. And it makes sense–respiration and inspiration come from the same root word and yet somehow before last night the word inspiration never made  me think of breathing. It seems so much more important now!

I used to think of inspiration in grand terms and ideas. I had to get to the top of the mountain and see the whole world below me–that was inspiring. Or hear the great success stories of the ridiculously wealthy and think that I, too, might achieve it–that was inspiring. And I think we need those great moments–those really deep breaths. But we couldn’t survive without doing it every day. I would never have considered myself inspired on a daily basis, but by golly, I do need to breathe.

Then I remembered Todd Mitchell’s wonderful anti-motivation motivational speech at the NCW conference and thought this concept of daily inspiration fit right in with that. It’s the small things–it’s every day we have to keep writing. We don’t write because of the grand prize we think we’ll win–we write because we have stories to tell and that’s all that matters. Writing itself is the inspiration, the fresh thoughts we didn’t know we had until we gave our pen the freedom to just write it down.

Where do you find your daily inspiration?

Jennifer is a freelance copy editor, proofreader and writer living in Fort Collins


Kay said...

I've always thought of writing as an "itch" which had to be scratched or I'd be uncomfortable. So, not much inspiration in this corner.

But, you are oh so right about there being more in our heads than we know. Writing gives us a chance to tap into those unrealized insights.

Eric W. Trant said...

What a great post! And you're right, I never thought about the word inspiration, not like that.

I give credit to the worms for my inspiration.

Worms. Yep. I even named my blog after em. Digging With the Worms.

Not because I like worms, but because they are the little slimy boogers who keep the soil fertile and fresh and tilled and moist.

We'd all die without worms, you know, especially the early birds.

Get it?

If the worms don't dig -- DAILY -- then the ground stiffens up. A crust forms over the top. Nothing blooms. Nothing flowers.

Then, later, when I finally get back around to it, the tilling takes twice as long but God it feels good to turn over the earth and watch my wormies wiggle and slither between my toes and breathe in the upturned dirt.

I gotta keep the worms in the wild, unpotted soil of the unknown. That's where they dig the best, dig deepest, and when I follow their tunnels there's no telling what'll pop up.

God bless the worms!

- Eric

PS: Worms inspire through their skin, you know, lacking lungs, but they have five hearts.

Jennifer Carter said...

Thanks, Eric! Great to know there are other worm lovers around. You'll appreciate my sentiment then from one of my blogs earlier this month: http://jenniferjcarter.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/save-the-worms/

Lisa_Gibson said...

Really interesting post. Oftentimes, the reason I write everyday is to quiet those darn characters of mine down. If I don't write it down, they keep talking to me. :)

Linda L. Henk said...

Writing Down the Bones is one of my favorite books on the craft of writing. I do like the idea that inspire means to breathe in. I get my daily inspiration from nature. I figure if I can't find something to be curious about that's within reach, including the reach of my eyes and ears, then I better look again, breathe in again.

Cold As Heaven said...

In my mind, inspiration is what you feel when writing the first draft, based on your most recent brilliant ideas. And inspiration is something that appears to be completely absent when you get the manuscript back from the reviewers 4 months later and have to fix all the stuff they complain about.

Cold As Heaven

Eric W. Trant said...

Jennifer, Loved your worm post! Go worms!

You sound like my wife. She's sweet until I eff-up, then for some reason that same woman who'd swerve to miss a snake in the road is driving on the sidewalk trying to run me down.

Wimmen. Go figger.

- Eric

Patricia Stoltey said...

Nice post, Jennifer. I've been getting a lot of my inspiration from reading the enthusiastic, often funny, and always thoughtful blog posts written by my blogger friends. This blogging business has helped me make writing a habit.

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