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« Do You Have A Man of God in Your Life? | Main | Kill the Messenger »

Inspire Me

It’s like pretzels dipped in chocolate, jam made from jalapeno peppers, or a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on a piece of hot apple pie.  Maybe it’s like red sneakers with a pin-striped suit, lace over denim, or shirttails hanging out beneath an argyle sweater.  Maybe it resembles a stringed orchestra playing jazz, Luciano Pavarotti singing “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You,” or Kenny G doing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” on his baritone sax. 

It happens when you put two thoughts together that you never before dreamed were related.  Or, when you view an object from a totally different perspective.  Or, when somebody uses a word in a strange context.  It could be with a WHAM! Or, a h-m-m-m, or a “no way…yes, way!”

I write.  I speak.  I create stuff.  I crave inspiration.  I can do all of this without inspiration.  Deadlines are brutal masters, impervious to something as subjective as inspiration.  I am grateful that computer geeks have programmed word processors to correct spelling errors, find mistakes in grammar and spit out lists of synonyms on demand.  Unfortunately, they have not yet developed a way to detect inspiration, or—more to the point—the lack thereof. 

Assembling a team of brainstormers to hammer out policy or invent slogans may work for organizations , but the vast majority of writing is not collaborative.  It’s the lone writer staring out windows, rubbing tired eyes, adjusting ear buds and sipping tepid coffee, who bears the burden.  You can only run your eyes over the stale books on the shelf in search of inspiration so many times.  Googling, surfing, and StumbleUpon turn up mumbo jumbo.  Procrastination as an option finally slips away; desperate moments inch inexorably closer.  Somebody, please help me before I write a boring, forgettable piece of filler.

Once the big idea surfaces, ninety percent of the problem evaporates.  It’s like catching the pass on the five yard line without a defender in sight.  Nobody has to tell you what to do with the football once you tuck it safely under your arm, but the quarterback does have to launch it, you do have to be in the right spot to receive it, and you do have to look it into your hands.  As a writer, you have to believe that the inspired thought is launched.  You just have to get to the right place to gather it in, secure it, and run into the end zone. 

Okay, here’s what I have found.  Yesterday’s ideas rarely inspire me.  They worked at the time, but I need something fresh, unexplored and meaningful to a significant number of people.  Therefore, I don’t pore over the bone yards of past accomplishments.  I venture into new territory, take plunges into previously unexplored ideas, and trust my instincts from that point on.  Many times I fail to make the connection, but I never fail to have a good time trying.  And I never fail to learn something in the process—something that may factor into tomorrow’s success.

Grasping inspiration takes me down several paths.  For example, I think about words and phrases.  I toy with them, turn them upside down, argue with them, put them into situations for which they were not originally meant to fit, and sometimes torture them until they confess a hidden meaning.  It’s amazing what you can do with phrases like “attention-deficit disorder,” “body language” or “hypothetical.”  The coining of every word or phrase in the language was a response to a need.  Something new required a description, a term or a definition to capture its essence.  That word or phrase most likely came from some other application that may have been totally unrelated to the present need.  Computer terminology is particularly guilty in this regard.  Almost every term—like hardware, software, hard drive, cut-and-paste, back-up, copy, etc.—came from other uses and other eras.  Endless possibilities present themselves when you go exploring words and phrases.

Another nearly failsafe method to catch inspiration comes from asking the simple question, why?  Why do people do that, say that, feel that, love that or react that way?  What could possibly motivate a person to adopt that position?  Why did he or she become so obsessed with a certain idea, cause or movement?  Admittedly childlike, asking why, why, and then why leads the seeker into deep machinations of the human heart.  At any given point, an array of choices and dilemmas emerge that the person in question had to negotiate.  Every moment that you begin to dissect these decisions is pregnant with inspiration. 

Finally, the inspiration of the Bible stems from a very different line of reasoning.  The etymology of the word inspiration reveals that it comes from “breath, inflame, or blow into.”  Thus, God breathed ideas into the writers of scripture and they were not capable of thinking, and they expressed them in words that they were capable of writing.  The Holy Bible was the product of man partnering with God.  Today, the canon is closed.  Nobody is writing the inspired Word of God in the same fashion as the Bible writers did.  Yet, God has never stopped breathing.  My greatest source of inspiration comes from thinking about spiritual things, meditating on the inspired Word, spending time in prayer and carrying on discourses with God.  Out of these interactions, concepts form in my mind.  I, then, attach words and phrases to them so they can become meaningful to the audiences I want to reach. 

What inspires me may bore you.  I may chase an idea that you think is a total waste of time.  Each of us, however, share this common need for inspiration.  While our end results may very different, chances are that our techniques will travel along the same trajectory.  If, by chance, my inspiration intersects with your search, it is a beautiful thing. 

What idiot put carrots and cake together?  Did you know that ice cream and waffles got married and produced ice cream cones?  Somebody was thinking.

So, inspire me.  I will try to inspire you.  That, I must say, is an inspiring thought!

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