Your job is to stoke the desire to write your book (or shorter work), and to be alert to what comes to you as a response. When you say “yes” to what comes to you and allow yourself to breathe it in, it will express its thanks by unfurling its gift as a desire to start writing. So begin. And when you are done, see what gifts are present in you and for you from having allowed yourself that inspiration.
The Angels of Inspiration
I was cooking a stew the other day, and the recipe said to lay down a thick layer of potatoes and carrots on the bottom of the crockpot before adding the rest of the ingredients. So I took the bag of carrots from the fridge and opened it up. When I withdrew the carrots from the bag, I saw that one of them was what one might call “misshapen” — or even (there is a movement by this name, to sell the perfectly tasty produce that doesn’t make it into the stores) — “ugly.” Rather than being cylindrical and even, it was oddly shaped, as if some sculptor had seen something in it and then stopped, midway.
Fascinated, I grabbed my camera and took photos of this image (see above).
It reminded me of being a child lying on my back on the grass, entranced and released from worldly obligations, staring up into the clouds and seeing the confluence of what showed itself with what my own imagination brought to it: “It’s a horse. No, a bird. No, a cat with whiskers reaching up to the sun . . . no, an angel. . . .”
If a carrot can contain an image that wants to be known – if the angel in the carrot is seeking to get our creative attention – then perhaps we can relax our pushing – our “perspiration” – and allow ourselves to receive that which wants to be known, as we set about to write the book or shorter work of our heart.
As no less than the great Michelangelo put it:
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
There’s no reason we can’t do the same with what we create. Angels of inspiration come in many forms and guises —
from an “ugly” carrot . . .
to a license plate on the car driving ahead of you . . .
to an image passing across your consciousness in a relaxed state (or a dream) . . .
to a sense-impression floating into your mind . . .
to a leaf twirling down from a branch onto the ground . . .
to — well, it could really be anything that has a message for you in the moment . . .
to something that wells up, ready to go, directly from inside you.
Our job is to pay attention, let the angel in, and follow the guidance that becomes present in us, leading us forward, with curiosity and an uncommon confidence (or at least an absence of the controlling Inner Critic).
“Huh, what if I just. . . ,” we may think, and take the step, write the words that start to appear on the inside of our being — as if we were both the marble housing the waiting angel and the sculptor setting it free.
Inspiration Is Not Far from You
You may feel, sometimes, when setting about to write your book or shorter work that your access to inspiration is blocked.
This is a very common belief among people seeking to create something of meaning. Why else would there be such a long list of artists who succumbed to drugs and drink in order to wrench inspiration from beyond their ordinary consciousness? Why else would this myth persist? And how much frustration there is in “courting the Muse” to no avail! How much gnashing of teeth (so to speak), and pain, and self-unkindness!
I once read an actually wonderful book on writing in which the author related how, periodically, his wife would tell him, “You’re filled with self-loathing, it must be time to write.”
But inspiration is not so far away. It’s as close as your breath.
Indeed, the root word for “spirit” and “breath” in Hebrew is the same (ruach), as is true in other languages (spiritus in Latin, pneuma in Greek, prana in India, to name a few).
How far away is your breath? It’s right here. As soon as you become aware of your breath – that you are breathing in and out – the breath deepens and widens, becomes a living carrier of the life force. Of course, it was this all the time, but – amazingly – once you are aware of it, its life-nourishment deepens and grows, enlivening the whole of your being. You are in-spired.
Try it now, just for a moment:
1. Turn your attention to the reality that you are breathing. Give all your attention to this, just for this moment.
2. Notice what it feels like in your body to inhale. Notice where the breath comes in, what part of your body expands to receive it more fully.
3. Notice what it feels like to exhale, and let the breath go.
4. Notice that the in-breath is guaranteed, for the entire course of your lifetime, to come back in after you have let it go. You can depend on its presence.
5. Notice what this awareness does to the quality of the breath — its temperature, its depth, its volume, and the effect on your feelings, even your thoughts.
6. If you were to gently release a question or a desire into this natural unfolding of breathing — perhaps about a creative project you are drawn towards—your breath might bring you something that can help you on your way.
Inspiration is seeking you as much as you may be seeking it! The old saw about “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” may be true insofar as that if you don’t act on your inspiration — let it into you and go where it leads you, all the way to completion — it will dissolve back into the ethers like clouds on a windy day.
But even jotting down what you have received, in its barest and most in-the-moment form, counts as “perspiration.” And not long afterwards, you may find that what you have jotted down actively wants to be expanded. So you pick up your pen, or your laptop, and you follow your angel of inspiration.
We need to slow down for this. We need to allow room. When we do, something will emerge — a sense of David’s elbow, the essence of the carrot-angel’s message. And when it comes, then we can gratefully set it down on paper, and allow it to tell us where it needs to go.
Any creative expression that calls to you can come out of this. Because you are already connected to the Source of inspiration. Your task is to turn in that direction, and receive it, let it in.
You can do this.
If You Could Use Some Help . . .
I work with people for whom the inner life really matters, helping them write the book or shorter work of their heart. I even work with people who want to express what lies within them in a form other than writing. This is my gift, and also my privilege. It’s a wonderful thing to help someone bring forth what’s in them that wants to be known.
You’re already on my website. Look around and see what calls you.