I know what you’re thinking…inspiration point sounds like a place where Fonzie and Richie used to take their girlfriends! Well trust me, that’s not what today’s post is all about, so keep reading. (This is longer than usual, but indulge me just this once, OK?)
I call an inspiration point a place or moment in time where a writer’s muse seems to jump into overdrive. Ideas for new stories flow like water, and we can’t seem to get the words down fast enough. I’ve had many “inspiration points” on this journey. Some are obvious, and others more subtle. But learning to recognize and remember them is important.
One of my first inspiration points was my grandparent’s farm outside of Nashville. They had 200 acres and raised cattle. They also grew corn and hay to feed their livestock. My grandmother had a large kitchen garden, and my grandfather had a tiny orchard. Some of my earliest memories are of playing in the creek, taking salt blocks and hay to the cows, riding high on the tractor wheel well and catching my first fish! And it was a big one let me tell you. I’ve tucked those memories away in safe places in my mind, and when I need inspiration for a story, I often dust them off. The smell of hay, the taste of homemade molasses on hot biscuits slathered with butter and the sound of tree frogs are as near now as they were when I was a braid-wearing tomboy of seven or eight. But sometimes our inspiration points need a refresher, especially when new memories make things a little crowded in the safe places in our minds.
So my husband and I took a short trip over Easter weekend while my girls were away on a school trip to NYC. We drove down to Nashville to spend Easter with his family, and on our way back home, we took a drive down that long, familiar, dippy-windy road…
We stopped at the church cemetery first and walked among the headstones. I paused to read the names of my grandparent’s, uncles, great-grandparents, and the names of those I belonged to but had never met. Then we drove past my great grandmother’s house, and I looked for the small cabin where my dad was born. I was glad I had taken a picture of it many years ago because it had finally fallen down. Then we drove up the hill and down the narrow driveway. My grandmother’s house looked so different. The pristine fruit trees were gone, and the garage that was my grandfather’s pride and joy was nearly hidden by trailers, RV’s and other big toys. But tucked right behind it was the smokehouse. I could almost see Granddaddy coming out the little door with a big chunk of country ham ready for breakfast. Can you smell it?
We drove up to the pasture and got out. Our little Gracie dog thought she had died and gone to heaven. We walked down the steep hill towards the old tobacco barn. I stood still when I thought I was in just the right spot and listened. The gurgle of the creek branch sang the same song as always. And after stepping in the barn to see if the sweet tobacco smell was still there, I walked to the water’s edge, took off my shoes, dipped my feet in the coolness
and closed my eyes…
I saw Dad picking up the rocks Mom chose. I heard my sister’s voice as she splashed in the icy water. I heard Granddaddy in the pasture above, calling the cows home for supper. And it was good to remember…
Before we left, my husband broke off a piece of the old barn door and it’s waiting on our garage floor. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet, but it will eventually be somewhere close to my desk. It’s nice to have inspiration points nearby because sometimes you need to run your hand over aged barn wood to find your center again. I’m sure I’ll do this many times in the years to come, and it will be good to remember.
So, that’s one of my inspiration points. There are many others of all shapes and sizes. They are beautiful and good and confusing and difficult and joyful and grace-filled. They are the stuff of life. And as a writer, it is good to remember.
Sensibility- Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Good writers are always looking.
Sense- Write descriptions of some of your favorite inspiration points and tuck them away for future use.
What are some of your favorite inspiration points?