Merriam-Webster defines inspiration as “the act or power of moving the intellect or emotions.” That’s the short version from the paperback on my desk. My commitment to write today is my inspiration for this post, even though I am preparing for a weeklong trip that culminates in a wedding. As some of you may guess, church weddings and country clubs are a stretch beyond my comfort zone. This is what I call a risk adventure of the major kind which involves nice clothes and good manners, many of which I have lost over time. However, I know it will be inspiring, as Webster defines it, and as I define it, too.
Webster’s definitions of both “inspire” and “inspiration” employ the words inhale, animate, excite and spiritual. The question for many creative people is how do we get inspired in a world as materially-focused as this one? The answer comes through our own inspiration, the breaths we take that lead to our exhalation of the animating spirit. Our job is to move those who involve themselves in our art to feel, perhaps even to speak or act, differently. How hard it is for us to assume the responsibility to inspire others! But to whom shall we leave it otherwise? Will we leave it up to our politicians and economists, the bankers and realtors to inspire the people? The short answer is: only if they all become poets and painters!
It’s not easy to find inspiration in a world rife with need and greed. Yet, that deep breath, the inspiration you’re looking for is as close as your front door. It’s rolled into your yoga mat or sitting squarely on the floor where you meditate. It can be an open window through which the breeze blows across our bed or how we hear the peepers as we drift off to sleep at night. The smell of coffee stimulates my imagination as much as the caffeine stimulates me. We don’t need much if we are paying attention.
I’ve lived in both the city and the country during my short 58 years of life, and I have found inspiration in both places. True, I’m a country kind of kid by nature, but I understand the allure and intensity of city living. It’s hard to think of more intensity than working as a cop in Atlanta, GA. Now I like my little AR home and farmlette, three acres outside the city limits of Fayetteville where we can watch the hawks mate and hunt right outside our office window. This is what inspires me now. I would also be inspired by a trip to Paris (France or Arkansas for that matter). It’s paying attention to the breath, the moment, the next cool thing that happens that will inspire.
If we are alive, then we must inhale. That next breath is an absolute necessity. Americans are a people spoiled by entertainment. We want to sit back and let it unfold in front of us, requiring no more action or risk than pushing back in the barcalounger and hoping it won’t tip over. Now, I love my retirement chair (thanks Liz Lester) as much as the next person come the end of a long, hard day on the farm or in the office. But I rise from bed early, opening myself to inspiration as quickly as I can, for the pen and blank page await me.
I go for that last walk of the evening knowing that something will happen, whether I’m by myself or deep in a discussion with Leigh. An observation, on my part or hers, will put my thoughts to flight or give me philosophical food to chew like the cows with their cud in the field next door. Inspiration is everywhere. It comes in the quiet of prayer and it rides on a siren’s wail. It hides beneath the next rock we turn up in the garden and it’s as obvious as the little dog that lies at our feet. Inspiration is as natural as breathing and as unnatural as noticing that breath. Attention is needed. Both God and good writing are in the details.
We have to be willing. Cheri Huber’s book Willingness is the Key is a great way to learn more about the power of being willing; to take risks, take a walk, or go to a wedding in what to me will feel like a foreign country. It requires us to go outside our comfort zone, breathing and open, just ready for something wild and unexpected to happen. If we leap, the net of all possibilities will catch us up in a virtual web of inspiration. Take some deep breaths, faithful readers, and go forth into this wild, wonderful, completely undependable world. Risk the unexpected happening to you, not just to others. I promise, inspiration waits for you right around the next turn in your path. Take a quick breath of fresh air and allow yourself to step towards it.