“Can we get much higher?.”
That part of the chorus from Kanye West’s song Dark Fantasy resonated with me in a way it had never done in the thousands of times I had listened to it prior to my much protracted return from the writing wilderness. That line summed up my state of mind in the first few hours after I had completed my first blog. I had underestimated the euphoria that would soon envelope me. Not only just that, the process of writing again had also proved to be quite therapeutic. For the first time in a long time, my brain was entirely focused on one thing (vs desperately seeking a moment to drift off). I was on a high and it was thrilling and intoxicating. The time that had elapsed since that defining moment of praise from my English teacher had served to numb the memory of the associated high. I reacted physically as well. The sheer joy I felt was such an adrenaline rush. Absolute bliss. Addicting.
Soon enough anarchy became the order of the day as writing became all I could think about, when to find the time to write again, and every idea I got I jotted down obsessively. The writer was writing! In every free moment I was writing down story arcs and ideas. It was chaotic, but I was thoroughly enjoying it. I was inspired.
What was even more significant and encouraging than this high was the feedback that I got. It ranged from, “Look what you started …”. Something a close friend said to me a few hours after I had sent them my blog, which had inspired them to start their own. Other reactions included surprise that I was actually capable of writing a coherent sentence, as well as being called out for supposedly wasting my talent. The most ingenious comment was the simple but yet eloquent reference to yours truly as “Mr Incognito”, an allusion to my coming out of the closet as a writer.
I realised then that in my small way with that single post I had inspired. As if the euphoria I had experienced from writing alone hadn’t been enough motivation. That I had inspired only served to consolidate the conviction I had that writing again was something I needed to do. I must point out that I did get some criticism, most of it constructive which was just the tonic I needed to keep myself grounded. This criticism also had the consequence of being sobering, a necessary evil considering the high that I was on.
As I set about to manipulate the free flow of natural endorphins that my high equipped with my ideas jostled with each other for space on the blank page. I wanted to write about anything and everything. In the few days since I had shared my story I was struck the most by the fact that I had inspired. Sharing the experience of my creative dilemma of being a writer who didn’t write had the unexpected effect of helping some of my readers confront head on whatever demons where shacking their creativity or passions. By looking to my own metaphorical backyard I had found the subject material the result of which was a story. A story that inspired, resonated and reverberates.
It was with this in mind that I began reflecting on my inspirations. I have always believed in the power of the story. The story matters. This is best exemplified by one of may favourite quotes from Chinua Achebe on the impact of a story “It is only the story…that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No,neither do we the story;rather, it is the story that owns us.”
I believe the story whatever it is and whoever it may belong to is an integral ingredient in that delectable delicacy that can be inspiration. Inspiration is the story, and it never belongs to the writer but to the inspired. At least that’s how I interpreted that quote .
As a child I was introduced to the worlds that lay within The Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Hardy Boys and others. These books where the early cultivator’s of my imagination and when I began to write, I too wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. This is something Chimamanda Adichie refers to in her TED talk when she says “… What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children …” A strong case can then be made that the stories we read in a way are pivotal to how the inspiration we get from them manifests itself. Whether we are inspired by the writers, the doctors or the sports stars story , it drives us closer to whatever our life’s calling is. We become what we read.
Prior to reading the works of Achebe and other African writers, I had become convinced that books by their very nature could only have their setting in far far away places. Something that is the subject of one of my favourite TED talks The Danger of A Single Story by Chimamanda Adichie.
The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify. Instead of embracing diversity,that it’s this or maybe that ,you have just one large statement; it is this – Chimamanda Adichie ( The Danger Of A Single Story)
In my case my early reading of books by European and American writers had created a singular story which blinkered my world view and narrowed the pool from which I drew my inspiration. This all changed in my teen years were my literature classes were to juxtaposition the works of William Shakespeare and the Chinua Achebe. This enabled me to appreciate the power of different stories by affording me the opportunity to appreciate a writer from a different era in English in Shakespeare and the “Father of African literature” Chinua Achebe. Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart however was more defining. A writer who the great Nelson Mandela himself said this of “He is the writer in whose company the prison walls came down”. Because of Chinua Achebe and other African writers I went through a mental shift in my perception of writing and was confronted with a new and more relevant inspiration. In started to write about things I recognised. It was the inspiration I needed to find my own voice and write my own story .
It is important to point out that every journey is not without its setbacks and most stories include failure. As with any story with a happy ending how the characters deal with adversity is key. Based on this I believe that inspiration is the Florence Nightangle of our ambitions. Selflessly nursing our ambition when its been battered by with failure until such a point when we fully recover and finally realise our dreams. So never give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, you cannot go wrong. Above all Inspiration is free but sometimes you just have to go and get it. Let inspiration be the nurse to your ambition.
I hope I have managed to make you think about which story inspires you and whether or not you have a story that will inspire.