Your Inspirations Welcomes Barbara Chepaitis
Posted May 22, 2012on:
Signing in late today… it’s been a long day of time spent at DMV and driving, driving and more driving. Oh, and more driving…
But I could not let the day close out without welcoming author Barbara Chepaitis to the Garden of Delights as my guest blogger for the week. Writer, reader, English professor, and interpretive artist among so many other things, Barbara Chepaitis also is a creative cook who blogs about life and pets and recipes on her blog: A Literary Lunch. She just recently finished a virtual book tour and graciously took some time out to leave the clay soil of her own garden to spend time in ours. And oddly, both have clay, clay, shale and more clay….
Please welcome, Ms. Barbara Chepaitis.
INSPIRATION HAS NO EXPIRATION DATE
When I’m asked about the source of inspiration for my writing, I don’t want to just say inspiration is everywhere, it’s all material, and so on. That’s true, but not very helpful. Maybe the better question is how do I access it? How do I get just the thought I need, just when I need it?
That’s simple. I get it by keeping myself in a state of open awareness, ready to filter any events, flitting images and thoughts, swirls of song or bits of conversation, into the needs of my work. I think that’s true of most artists. We’re always ready for inspiration, because we know that if we’re ready, it always shows up.
Here’s an example. When Jaguar Addams, my protagonist in the ‘Fear’ series of novels, first appeared, I was on my way to visit a friend who’d just had a baby, and my thoughts roamed as they do when you’re driving. I was asking myself what I might write next. I was also asking myself if I wanted to have another child. I was wondering rather than worrying, open to guidance rather than needing answers. In my tape player the Eurythmics song “No Fear, No Hate, No Broken Hearts,” was playing the opening lines – well, in the morning when our day begins/ and it feels like cold, dark steel.
Immediately, a woman with oceanic green eyes rose up, fixed me with her intent and told me quite clearly, “What you’ll do next is write me.”
She was Jaguar Addams, and I did exactly as she asked.
So you could say the source of inspiration was the song, but it had to combine with specific personal questions, and a state of open wondering.
In short, I was listening, both internally and externally.
Our culture gives more kudos to smooth talkers than good listeners, but for writers – perhaps all artists – that skill is the underpinning of inspiration. In fact, in the graduate writing classes I teach, one of the first things I make students do is spend ten minutes silently observing their environment. I tell them to listen with their eyes, their skin, and their heart as well as their ears. They’re always amazed at how much material they come away with.
Once they catch on, they can put themselves in that state more readily, and so inspiration falls into their waiting, open, hands.
Simple, right? Yes, but in our busy, frantic, noisy and cluttered world, it takes practice. Consummate artists practice it, literally, to the end of their lives. The great Irish harpist and composer, Carolan, composed his last piece on his deathbed – Carolan’s Farewell. Alan Ginsberg’s obituary said he spent his last hours with family and friends, and wrote six poems. They’d become so good at it, even the spectre of death didn’t chase their inspiration away.
So if you’re a writer seeking inspiration, or a reader wondering where it comes from, go sit on your front stoop or in your yard. Relax, and give all your attention to what’s around you. Then listen to your own heart. Reflect on what you’ve observed, and write about it.
And keep writing. Keep listening.
Barbara Chepaitis is author of eight published novels and two nonfiction books. Her most recent novel is The Green Memory of Fear, fifth book in the ‘fear’ series featuring Jaguar Addams. She is also director of the fiction writing program at Western College of Colorado’s Master’s program in creative writing.
Her Jaguar Addams novels can be found at Wildside Books, http://www.wildsidebooks.com/CHEPAITIS-B-A_c_315.html
- Guest Post by Barbara Chepaitis author of The Green Memory of Fear (alchemyofscrawl.wordpress.com)
- Your Inspirations Welcomes Martine Svanevik (edenmabee.wordpress.com)