Saturday, November 08, 2014


Inspired by true events: it's the worst of the movie tropes, and not because "true events" is code for "didn't happen this way at all."

It's the "inspired" part that makes me rankle. Inspiration is mercurial and therefore divine. It can sometimes be perverse, sure, but it's the cleanest of highs, no additives or fillers necessary. There's not a speck of shit in it and anyone who's ever felt its flash knows the difference between inspiration and rote work.

For me it's the chasm between typing and writing. Most of the work I do is typing — with great verve, of course, 'cause that's the way I roll, but it's still hands-on-keyboard muscle memory, bang it out and on to the next one. In my career I've written several thousand pieces for public consumption. Only a handful have been good enough to be called writing, and every one of those stories has been inspired.

A radio piece I did about the homeless in Springfield was inspired by outrage; people in power dismissed the homeless as a nuisance. I just saw their faces. So I dressed like them and lived among them and like a fiend I wrote for them, anger pulsing through my veins.

A story I wrote about the underbelly of Branson's boom was inspired by Steinbeck and a sugar cube. I remember my fingers feeling electric as they played the keyboard and I wrote all night, seeing the colors become words. When dawn broke I read the piece from first word to last and smiled when I hit the kicker sentence. "Nice work, sport," I said out loud. "You can actually do this."

And then there were the days after Cinco de Mayo 2012, when a stroke forced me to relearn some of the basics, like typing and tying my shoes. An old friend came to visit, bringing coffee and inspiration in a dozen words: "This is your greatest sorrow, but it will become your greatest joy."

And he was right because in that profound darkness I learned how to see every glimmer of light, no matter how faint.

Which brings me to the present and the inspiration of now.

I find myself writing more, but it's not out of agony created by the silence of a dark muse. There's actually a positive reason for my current output and outlook. I'm finding inspiration in the happy spaces of life. I'll be goddamned if I can figure out how this happened, but I'll take it. I deserve it.

Some would call that arrogant, and maybe they can point to bravado in recent posts to prove their point. But the gasconade in my words is genuine, earned alongside the wrinkles and the argentine hair. I've had an interesting life, and it's only getting more intriguing with each new day.

And all I wanted was a sliver to call mine / And all I wanted was a shimmer in your shine / To make me bright ...

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