This morning I woke, picked up the pen and paper on the hotel nightstand, and wrote down these words:
What is it to write from sleeping?
To write without ceasing. To hold back the need to edit, the impulse to correct. The penmanship is awful, but that does not matter. The only impulse is to write. The chance to create from a place of great stillness; the greatest stillness next to eternal sleep.
Write because there is a fire of great color burning in your heart. The heat is your cousin, your lover, your friend. The heat is a birthright, but the heat is disloyal. It vanishes if ignored. It will return, but you must coax it with kindness, and ritual, and sex. You must invite the fire back by making love to the essence of pleasure, pain, fear, and ecstasy.
Call back the fire like a lost child. Scream into the subdivision for your baby. She will come running to you. She will blaze through your manicured lawn and be a beacon of transformation.
Set fire to your heart!
I like the intangible. I try to hold onto it. I like the formless, and I too often try to pin it down. I ask a lot of questions. I always have. I asked about our concept of compassion, and it led to a follow-up piece by fellow Patheos writer, Steven T Abell. I asked questions about the point of our religions, and it led to some of the most amazing comments yet on Bishop in the Grove. These questions I ask of religion and spirituality are useful. Or they can be, at least. The first thought I put to paper this morning was a question: What is it to write from sleeping? I ask questions in order that I might begin to approach an answer. I don’t know the answers, but I can move toward them. This is how my mind works.
I admit that I have experienced the feeling of being sidetracked by my own inquiry. Questions can also be a tool for distraction. They can take the focus away from the doing of my something. In point of fact, after sitting down at my computer today and writing whatever flowed out of my mind for a solid five minutes, I began to deconstruct all of it and try to make it make sense. No longer was I writing; I was thinking about writing. There’s a tremendous difference between those two things…. just ask a Creative Writing major.
I see a parallel here with my practice of religion. I often take myself out of the routine of my spiritual work, whatever that may look like at the time, and start to think about it. Reflection is useful, yes, but dissection can be quite violent. I may pick apart what I’m doing to the point where I’m no longer sure of what’s in front of me. My spirituality looks like a series of disparate paragraphs on the screen, with no cohesion, no order, and certainly no “flow.”
But then there are moments when I exhale, release this obsessive need for understanding, and experience the memory of a time when I did not care much about religion, its purpose, or its relevance. I did not seek out the divisions between us so that I might examine them, or deconstruct them. In that memory-me, I was an imaginative person; a man who was a child who was playful, and who sang melodies that had never been written. I remember the feeling — the location — of that inspiration, and then, all of a sudden, I step into a creative space. My mind is freed up from the inquiry, and something begins to flow through me again.
I like to think of inspiration occurring in a particular “place,” physically and bodily. I try to locate it, or to remember where I’d felt it last, if I feel uninspired. I try to remember where it was inside of me that an idea first showed itself. Was it behind my eyes? In my stomach? Or, did I hold it in my hand? Certainly, our inspirations can come from the physical world. Nature is a generous patron, and we are provided with all that we need to be inspired if we open our eyes wide enough. But, I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about charting a map of your insides, and looking for treasure. I’m talking about inspiration that originates somewhere inside of you, and that even feels like it may have originated from somewhere else altogether.
Have you felt that kind of inspiration?
I ask you – where is the source of your inspiration? Where do you find it? Have you every closed your eyes and been flooded by the imagines of the divine, the sacred, the profane, or the magical? Have you seen, in the stillness of your own being, a clear vision, and then brought that vision into the world?
If you are inclined to answer that you are “not a creative person,” I say hogwash. You are. We all are. We create in every moment of our lives. Put any dismissive thought aside for a moment, cock your head, and listen to the question again, sideways.
Where is the source of your inspiration?