The View from Inspiration Point
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
What was it Hemingway said?
That’s certainly what writing’s felt like for me lately. For some reason, all the old prompts haven’t been working…the inspiring excerpts…the tricks, tips and tools…words of wisdom from favorite authors. They all fall down around me like stones while my creative impulses beat weakly, barely delivering a pulse.
These are the lulls that scare us. Will I ever find the energy to write again? What if I’m a one hit wonder, or half-hit, wonder? A dilettante. A poser. A pretender to the throne…
It’s a malady commonly referred to as writer’s block, but I find it to be much more complex than that. It’s not that you are necessarily being blocked from your creativity, or that your creativity is not being allowed to flow freely. It’s an intricate mix of energy, ambition, faith and that little spark we depend on to light the fires we depend upon to lead us down the writer’s path.
The first step is to give yourself a break. It’s okay to stumble; the important thing is getting back up again. I know I’ve ventured into cliché territory, but there’ve been plenty of times in my life when I’ve fallen and been forced to rise on my own steam: learning to roller skate, learning to ride a horse, a bike, a pair of skis. Shit – just last week I fell while hiking – in front of other hikers mind you – and had to pull myself back up with a tree branch, dust myself off, and keep pounding down the dusty, oak-lined lane.
Falling is not fun. Neither is failing. It’s embarrassing and time consuming. Humbling. You realize that maybe you’re not as great as you thought you were. It forces you to question everything: your motives, your pacing, your entire life’s philosophy.
Or not. Sometimes it’s equally important to not make a big deal out of it. I remember the first time I fell of a horse. I was about 11 years old, and standing in a line of eager preteens waiting for a chance to pace around my best friend’s yard on her retired polo pony. I got a leg up, settled myself onto the horses bare back (no saddles for this casual small town cowboy), and promptly slid off; landing on the hard dirt with a bang that set tears in the corners of my eyes. Without missing a beat, my best friend’s father picked me up and set me back on that horse – “you always have to get right back on” he said with a wink and grin.
He was right. Unfortunately – clumsy girl that I am – I am reminded constantly that I need to “get right back on.” I fall all the time – in situations both inevitable (skiing) and surprising (a Laundromat parking lot…but that’s a story for another time). Interestingly, the responses to my tumbles and tribulations are unpredictable and enlightening – some people laugh, other’s are concerned, most just learn to shrug it off: there she goes falling again, make sure we have enough bandages and Neosporin.
Not to get too metaphorical or cutesy, but recently I found myself sitting in the dusty dirt of my creative commitments. Sore and disillusioned, facing a tall mountain of expectation: my writing seemed like one long, arduous climb up to an summit obscured by trees, boulders and curves in the road.
Then I took a long, arduous climb up a real mountain. What started out as a quick weekend hike began to resemble a Bataan death march. A death march of my own making – because the universe is nothing if not ironic – but one that I felt I could not abandon. My feet were sore, my ankles aching, my breath loud and labored. And still I continued forward, one step at a time, with plenty of breaks in between. Each time I emerged from a grove of tees I thought, “the trail head will be just up head”, and then I’d turn a corner and see another long stretch of loose rock and straggly chaparral. At one point I heard voices and motorbikes, and I felt certain the end was nigh.
And then I hiked for another half hour…
In the sun.
Eventually I made it to the trailhead: atop a peak appropriately named Gibraltar, with the uninspired but completely understandable title of “Inspiration Point.”
If this were a Hallmark movie, I’d have proudly soldiered back down that trail, all the way, to the first chapters of the Great American Novel.
I hate to break it to you…but none of us live in a Hallmark movie.
Nevertheless, I relearned a valuable lesson: I got up and kept going.
Because inspiration is just the beginning.