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    Home Articles

    Seeking Inspiration

    I remember times where I would just sit and stare at my blank computer screen, trying to come up with some kind of inspiration. I wanted to be the author of the Great American Novel. Those were the days before I was published, before I had learned how to finish a manuscript, before I knew what it "took."

    "Write about what you know!" screeched that old tired voice inside my head. "Yeah, right," I retorted. "I donít know nuthiní. Who wants to read about that?" It was over. I had to face it. The book would never be finished. I would never be published, and Oprah, well, she wasnít gonna call me either. Damn.

    I was going to have to get a real job, and, worse than that, all my friends were going to say, "I told you so." I was a loser, and that thought made me sick to my stomach. Looking outside through the bedroom window, I was struck with a brilliant idea. "Of course! Thatís it!" I was going to jump, except that the fall was only about twelve inches. "Okay," I told myself, "Iím going to have to jump a lot!"

    Nine jumps later, more depression set in; now I was a failed jumper as well. This wasnít the way it was suppose to happen. But that ninth splat in the dirt must have shaken something loose in my pea brain, because that was when I figured it out: Writing isnít about what you know, itís about what you feel and the way in which you share those feelings with your reader.

    For instance, a man came over to the house a while back. He was the friend of a young mother in our town who had lost her ten-year-old son just days before. The boy and his best friend had fallen through the ice just before dark and had drowned. No one knew for sure what had happened; they had gone out to play and never came home. In the darkness, volunteers searched through wet snow and dense brush, looking for any clue to their whereabouts. By morning hundreds had joined the cause. We wanted to believe that the boys had run away, or were hiding, or anything other than what we feared. But our calls for angels went unanswered, as the reality of an underwater camera testified. It was a terrible experience for all of us.

    The mother had asked my friend, "If God said to you that he was going to give you a beautiful gift...a perfect little boy who carried the sun in his smile, the stars in his eyes and--" she stuttered as her face pulled together and tears slid down soft pink cheeks, "and more love in his heart than you could ever know, would you still want him, even if you knew that He would take him back in ten years?" My friend had no words to comfort the woman, so while shaking, she cried the answer for him. "Yes, yes! I would," she said, nodding her head up and down. "I miss him so much."

    The point here is to convey a feeling; it doesnít matter if the story is real. This example, as much as it breaks my heart to tell you, was real. Many of the things that I write about are. Not all of them are personal experiences. A large number of them are not -- they are real experiences that somebody else has shared with me.

    I dare not compare myself with another person, for that is surely a sin. I am who I am, no better or worse than my brother. We are at different places in our experience. Instead, I choose to share emotions with my readers. My task is not to listen with my ears, but with my soul, and then simply to share the emotions. For me to be able to find meaningful words, I have to become the person I am writing about. Just as the mother cried while she spoke, so did I when I became her.

    Some say that you can never feel another personís pain; That is a lie. Empathy is the most basic human quality that we possess. The crime is that most of us refuse to empathize, because somehow we believe that we are above or immune to what happens to our friends and neighbors. Acknowledgement opens the door to fear. But to deny that the sky rains or the cold winter wind blows through the passage of time within our lives deadens the senses. What is life, if not experience?

    Never will a single word convey a feeling unless you believe it first. Consider yourself blessed when other human beings open themselves up to you in their most private moments. If you can, take the way you feel then and put it into words. Sometimes you will laugh and sometimes you will cry, but it will be the truth. Embellish the locations and conceal the characters, but hold true to the emotion.

    The technique that I favor is what I call "the swing." The readers get a gentle push going forward, rising above the ground and picking up speed, until that instant when they are weightless. As they come back to a place they cannot see, they trust me to catch them and send them off again, this time higher. Going backward is as much a part of the ride as going forward. Readers donít want to fall or crash into a tree or get sick; they want to have fun. That is my job: to let them have fun. A reader wants an experience, an honest alternative. If in writing I can convey to them a word of truth that will help them to live their life in a fuller manner, so much the better.

    If I lie about what I write, they will know. I cannot hide behind any word or page that is untrue. Believe in what you write. Believe in yourself. Write for yourself. Share with your readers what you feel and you wonít have to worry about completing the story. It will finish itself.

    Copyright © Vic Peters

    Vic Peters is the author of Mary's Field, a new Christian novel from Millennial Mind Publishing. More information is available at http://www.marysfield.com.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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