Everyday inspiration
A rambling by Donna Scanlon,
December 1999

It happened to me at least twice in the past three months. I found that the story ideas I had thought so original and compelling were really appropriated from writers far better than I am. It wasn't just inspiration, either; I had used some of the same images thematically, and where I hadn't, it was close enough to be considered derivative.

This was devastating, coming after a struggle to create anything halfway worthwhile. I wanted to tell stories, but the ones I wrote fell flat. They were a scattering of clever phrases and images stitched together with mediocre paragraphs, as if I'd taken jewel-toned velvet quilt pieces and patched them together with acid green polyester. Finding out that I wasn't particularly original on top of it all was just too much.

Ever since I could hold a pencil and form legible letters, I have wanted to be a writer. Reading made me hungry to write, to paint the same kinds of images and evoke the same responses in others. Journal writing isn't enough for me; I want to share my work with others. Spatially challenged, I can't draw well. I can't carry a tune, and I'm not very well-coordinated. Writing has always been my way of expressing myself and my way of making the world a more beautiful place. I thought writing stories was my talent, my creative outlet.

I expressed frustration this to a good friend who tried to reassure me that not everyone has to be an author and suggested that some people find raising children well to be a creative outlet. This is a lovely thought, and it is one that is much appreciated. This friend, however, has never spent twenty minutes holding down a 5-year-old girl with fine hair and seventeen cowlicks to fix the braids that she, the child, requested; this experience always leaves me feeling that wrestling an enraged yak might be more creatively stimulating. Neither has this friend witnessed me do the same, or my parenting skills would be called into question. Still, there is validity in the sentiment; I am not entirely certain that it could be applied to me.

These thoughts were running through my head as I dried my hair and brushed my teeth this morning, idly noting the clutter heaped on the sink counter. I made a mental note to check on contact lens supplies since I was finally going to the eye doctor for an eye exam and to order a new pair of contact lenses. That led me to start thinking about my schedule, which will become challenging in January, and I thought, "I'm going to have to do some creative planning to fit it all in."

Click! I stared at the water rushing over my toothbrush. "Oh," said a voice inside my head. "Life is a creative outlet!"

"Well, duh," said my Inner Snot-Nosed Brat. "Congratulations. You've just demonstrated your keen grasp of the obvious. Again."

This seems to go along with a recent revelation I had that I am not responsible for the functioning of the Universe, and that I am not always required to be the "responsible" one. It appears to be a logical progression. I require myself to live a useful life, to try to make the world better in some small way, and to appreciate what I have around me. I can choose to do that with grim determination, but it would probably be more fun and more pleasant for all involved if I could do it joyfully and, well, creatively. If that includes writing a brilliant story some day, then great, but if it doesn't, I won't beat myself up about it.

Buoyed by this little epiphany, I went to get the rest of the family up to start the day. I experienced a mild setback after spending twenty minutes holding down a 5-year-old girl with fine hair and seventeen cowlicks to fix the braids that she, the child, requested, but I figure it might take a while for the attitude adjustment to take effect. The best I can do is look for a creative solution and keep going.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]