Toward the end of his life, my father, who used to enjoy painting, would often say he couldn’t “get in the mood” or “just lost interest.” His easel stood waiting, a pencil-sketched canvas in place and a table of brushes and paints nearby.
Sometimes, writing can feel that way, as though you’re engaged in a stare down with a blank screen. Which of you is going to win? You can wait to be inspired (it might be a while), you can use a writing prompt or you can just let your thoughts spill onto the page in a stream-of-consciousness fashion and see what shape they take.
The thing about inspiration is that it’s bound to strike at an inopportune moment like when you’re in the shower or you’re driving or you’re in that liminal space between barely awake and soundly asleep. Just in case the stars align, and it happens to strike when I’m ready and waiting for it, I always carry a small notebook and pen with me.
We recently joined our son and his family for a day at Angel Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. The weather was perfect and the ride over on the ferry smooth. They had reserved a campground for the evening and loaded some of their camping gear on a two-seater bicycle. Our almost six-year-old granddaughter alternated between riding on the bike and walking alongside. We were walking together enjoying our view of the bay when she said something about a blade of grass “swishing” in the breeze. She froze in her tracks, bicycle helmet still on her head and said “Nana, I need to stop right here and write a poem.”
I loved how we all moved over to the side of the path and allowed this to happen. She found a place in the grass and sat down next to her mom. I handed her my notebook and pen and for just a moment, the entire world seemed to pause as a small poem about a butterfly emerged from the pure chrysalis of a child’s mind.