Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Inspiration is something that tends to sneak up on me suddenly. It arrives most often when I am already writing, and tries to get me to steer the car in a completely different direction. There's a bit of a zig zag as I try to go in the direction I was heading, but Inspiration threatens to disappear if I don't pay attention to it NOW. Then a rush of ideas and phrases fill up my brain; the risk, of course, to lose it all if I don't write everything down. I surrender, and am happy - but then am left with the burdensome feeling of having yet another project to nurture, that I can only hope will be finished in this lifetime.

I believe others have written about inspiration, describing it as a bolt of lightning. It is like that: a sudden explosion of electricity in the brain. I've stopped trying to reason with it. Stopped trying to say: But I'm in the middle of something here! I'm supposed to be finishing this one! Come back in five months. No. It's riskier to ignore and lose something that you can probably never re-collect, never phrase in a better way. But what it means for my dining room table, the floor by my bed, my huge catch-all purse...is massive disorder...but also the chance to read something later and think, "Wow. This is worth finishing." Because odds are that bolt from the place where the best art comes from is far superior to anything I could have laboured over...

And so this week, while working on a number of half finished projects, I've allowed myself to be sidelined again. The proposition, though, has its appeal. It means revisiting an interesting relationship with a quirky hook: re-reading letters that are 20 years old and responding to them, now, as the 38 year old version of me. Now that I'm 8 years older than the sender was at the time, I feel I can finally address questions I was too young to be able to answer well the summer and fall after I graduated high school.

The piece I'd like to write is also an exploration of a correspondence that truly swept me off my young feet. I remember receiving letter after letter and being filled with amazement and longing. The words of this man - a musician I'd written to after wanting to know more about the music he was making, 3000 km away and 12 years my senior - were a delicious secret, and a salve for a girl who was unformed, and due to the events of the previous year, a bit broken.

Ultimately this romantic friendship in letters, of course, ended. I believe it is true that you can't know the meaning of a person or event until you can stand back and look at it from a great distance; for this reason, the 20 year mark seems like the right place to reflect and appreciate the lasting virtues of a dialogue that centered on the sensual and the spiritual, the mystery of life and death - and also spent a lot of time bantering about art, film, literature and music. This written conversation in ten parts entertained me for months, but also moved me to greater expectations of myself and what I could do with my potential. It also gave me a surer sense of what I wanted, and should/could expect, from a relationship that would be physically present, and yes, carnal.

Thank you, A, for all of that.

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