Saturday, August 7, 2010

Inspiration on a Bumpy Road

Inspiration hits at funny times. It’s never planned and for me it’s often dangerous. I find it while I’m driving.

Always one to find a shorter route to work, I Google Mapped an old country-looking road polluted with Pittsburgh’s legendary potholes, which shortened my daily commute by a total of fifteen minutes. I was driving too fast and my car was bouncing in and out of the potholes when the inspiration for my novel hit. John Mayer’s Who Says was playing on the radio and the song was just to the part where he says: Who says I can’t be free/ from all of the things that I used to be/ Rewrite my history/ Who says I can’t be free?

It hit me like a bolt of lightning, or perhaps it was an exceptionally large pothole. Either way, I was moved. As a writer, you listen to every other writer tell you to keep a pen and notepad handy, by your side at all times to capture writer-ly things like bits of conversation, flashes of genius, mind-blowing plot twists, etc. But no one ever tells you the secret behind always remembering to harness your notepad by your side. In the last two years alone, I’m willing to bet big bucks that I’ve managed to buy and collect a hundred notepads. Perhaps more. Want to know how many are in my purse right now? None. I have notepads in all sizes and colors. I bought cool colorful pens thinking that I could organize my thoughts into colors: something like red for plot, green for character, blue for dialogue. It was kind of like organizing my closet, but after doing laundry for two weeks, the closet starts to look like the mess that it was in the beginning.

A few years ago, I was gifted a super high-tech voice recorder. It was small, purse worthy and slightly feminine. Like most people, I cringe at the sound of my own voice. I never play back a voicemail message that I left and I never, ever set my own voicemail recording. The recorder was cool enough that I was willing to get over my fear. It made me feel like a detective. Or someone else that’s really important and has to keep a recorder by their side.

The last time I recorded my own voice was when I was in junior high. My best friend and I were going through this phase where we thought that we would and should have our own radio station. We interviewed each other. We gossiped. We fought about whose turn it was to use the microphone, recording our fights until the door slammed and someone remembered to turn off the cassette recorder.

I never used the recorder. I rarely remembered to carry it and when I did, inspiration never hit. It was almost bringing bad luck. It was anti-inspiration.

Back to my commute on the bumpy road, I started to think how cool it would be to rewrite your past through diary entries. So I swerved off the road in my little Honda Accord, grabbed a Sharpie and reached into my purse for paper. Anything. The back of a receipt holds inspiration just as well as any notepad or voice recorder. If anything, it’s more authentic; like that old image of a writer grabbing coffee and is so inspired that she writes all over a bunch of napkins. The moral of the story? When it comes to capturing inspiration, anything within your natural environment will do. Everything else is fluff.

Holly Christine

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Tuesday Tells it Slant by Holly Christine

Tuesday Morning has always been a little different. She's kept a diary since 1989 and while researching for her English Lit thesis in 2003 on Emily Dickinson's transcendental tendencies, finds a poem that will change her life. Haunted by a past that she considers less than desirable, Tuesday recreates her history with the stroke of a pen. Page by page, year by year, she rewrites her painful memories as she has always fantasized. Tuesday finds herself in an odd place six years later, unknowingly spending each day of her life as someone that she was never meant to become. With each breath of her new life, Tuesday obliviously loses more of herself. When a special person of her past returns to her present, Tuesday is forced to choose between the life that she had once desired and her true self.

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