Today I saw a post on Facebook with a page of Virginia Woolf’s manuscript of To the Lighthouse. Just seeing that page in her scrawling script made me want to throw down the computer and seize my pen, to write, write, write. The problem with inspiration however is that it is often fleeting, and often occurs at all the wrong times. Opportunity and inspiration rarely, if ever, seem to coincide in my busy life.
It’s not that I don’t get inspired – I do. But it always seems that when that inspiration hits, I am in the middle of something that I can’t just toss aside. For example, driving home (which takes an hour), and that certain song comes on the radio, and the story is just tumbling out of my brain, begging to be written down. But by the time I get home, it’s gone. The wonderful words have vanished, leaving only a regretful echo. I have tried having a Dictaphone in the car to catch these moments of inspiration, but the act of recording seems to break the spell. Similarly, I have also tried having a notebook computer with a voice to text programme beside me, but this resulted in a huge load of gobbledegook by the time I reached my destination. So unless someone can invent a way to take the words directly from my brain to the page, I have to just deal with the lost gems of poetical brilliance that have fallen unheeded on the roadside of my daily commute.
Other times include – the middle of a meeting at work, where such a good idea appears that I have no choice but to write it down. Luckily this can be disguised as my studiously making notes on whatever issue is currently being discussed. Unluckily it also means that I get asked a lot to give my opinion on said issues, and usually I haven’t got anything to say because I was only half listening. Asking a question in response only buys you a certain amount of time! Or else, right in the middle of teaching, when I’ve set the class group work and I am wandering around, nodding and encouraging, and I can’t sit down and start frantically scribbling.
It is a strange irony that inspiration seems to come most frequently when I am at my most busy, and those quiet times when there is ample scope to write leave me empty-headed and directionless, or staring at the uninspired words and wishing for that spark of energy that ignites my creative voice. I wonder what masterpieces will never be written because of this. I wonder if I am blogging as a means of avoiding writing something ‘real’. Perhaps all I need is to engineer the right conditions for inspiration, and it will flow. Certainly I know that some circumstances make it more likely. I wrote most of my PhD novel sitting in a Costa Coffee with my ipod on, whilst my son was in the Games Workshop up the road. I find cafes ridiculously easy to write in. The problem is I work for a living and can’t spend all day sitting in cafes. Similarly, I can write easily sitting in a busy bar in the city centre, with music blaring and people around getting drunk and dancing and flirting. Something about that kind of environment really helps my creative flow. But being at home with the TV on does not, and being in an empty room in peace and quiet also doesn’t help. I wonder whether others have particular circumstances in which they find the most inspiration.
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