Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wherefore Art Thou Inspiration?

I remember the moment I decided to become a writer.

I was in fifth grade and my teacher, Mr. Gelman, told us to write a story which incorporated all twenty of our weekly spelling words. Across the room, Julie, the mean girl who all year had spelled girl "gril" looked stricken. Her face went pale. Mine flushed with excitement.

At home, I observed my surroundings: the Betty Crocker cake mix box on the counter, the broken color tv that only played in black and white, the musty smell of our unfinished basement. I did nothing extraordinary except to take notice of the ordinary. I used these elements of my life and combined them with the spelling words to write a story about the daughter of Betty Crocker who lived in a house with a broken television set, a musty basement, and two sisters.

I felt joy as the words spilled onto the page and elation as I reviewed the final product. I didn't tell anyone, didn't want to brag, but I knew it was good. I knew.

Mr. Gelman knew it, too. He gave me a gold star and read my story to the class.

That year, I started a novel. Praise from Mr. Gelman inspired me to be a writer. I was good at something I enjoyed. (The holy grail as I would discover in my adult life.) I carried a cream-colored looseleaf binder with me everywhere. Inside was a title page and five chapters, each one labeled and separated neatly by dividers, about a little girl living in the country. (My inspiration was James Herriot's, All Creatures Great and Small.)

My 6th grade teacher was a different sort. In me he saw no spark and cared little about nurturing one. My fire quickly burned out and the cream-colored looseleaf was buried along with my dreams. It later disappeared, carelessly thrown away with other childhood keepsakes.

My passion died out without a fan to it's flame.
It took decades to return.

It eludes me again today. These past few days.
I want it back.


InTheFastLane said...

Sometimes all it takes is someone that believe in you. Do you believe in yourself?

I haven't quite figured out what my relationship with writing is yet, but I do know that sometimes that spark begins from without, but it has to burn from within.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

Writer's Block! It's the worst. Try sending a loved one somewhere dangerous (by mistake) and see how quickly the writing floodgates open! :)

Manic Mommy said...

Wine. Wine makes me funny.

At least to myself. I like 24's idea of placing a loved one in harm's way. It could work...

2KoP said...

I like everything about your blog, including the title. I belong to a writer's workshop in the Chicago area, and author Anne Ylvisaker came to speak to our group about writer's block. Her speech was titled "All Who Wander are Not Lost," and she talked about how it was 36 months between the publication of her first novel and the idea for her second one (a beautiful children's novel called Little Klein). She said that she learned during that time that everything she did was filling the well. She also suggested putting cool words in a "word bucket" and, whenever you are stuck, drawing out three of them and using them to write something. Sounds just like what you did when you were inspired as a kid. For a little more inspiration, check out one of my older posts called ”Play with Your Words”. Good luck. I'm bookmarking your blog.

Your Pal Pinki said...

I can relate to your situation. I stopped writing and reading in 7th grade. I lost my creativity and found myself drowning in homework. It wasn't until my Jr year of high school when I said F**k it, as long as I graduate I don't care about grades, that I found my writing skills rolling back. A fantastic teacher challenged me to get the "spark" back. Thinking about that time still inspires me. Keeping a notepad next to the bed to jot down topics is the biggest help yet.

ByJane said...

Do you still have that notebook? I still have all of mine. I carry them with me--the detritus of my writing life--wherever I live. I have written enough words to create War & Peace what with all the novels I've started and flaked out on. Too bad there's not a market for chapter outlines. Could we make one? Convince people that they were better off buying the outline because then they wouldn't have to read the book--and think how easy it would be to take it to screenplay. Just a thought....

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