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Photo by Withanee Andersen Milligan

So there I was, standing in my backyard looking at the clouds—which I often do between snacks—and wondering if there was some sort of inspiration up there that might help my writing these days. There is sometimes, you know, but these clouds were looking streaky, kind of like they were in a hurry to get somewhere. Couldn’t help but notice they appeared to be herded along by a ghostly white damsel wearing a sash and wielding a long, thin dueling sword which I would call an ‘epee’ if I were working a crossword puzzle, which I wasn’t.

But wait! There’s an idea!

Before it could get away I hurried back inside, got out my crossword puzzle book and started working on one, but after an hour or two I found no inspiration there either. I did, however, learn that a U-shaped river bend is called an oxbow. Can’t ever tell when that might come in handy so I filed it away in an uncluttered corner of my mind, of which I seem to have plenty.

Never having been one to put things off I decided to take a break and think things over for awhile, which often helps. Little did I know that a nap was just waiting to snag me and drag me, kicking and screaming, off to dreamland.

Ah, well. You can’t win ‘em all.

And therein lies the entire problem with inspiration; if you wait to be struck by inspiration you’d have much better odds of getting struck by a bolt of lightning, which in itself is a rare enough occurrence that you could grow old and feeble just waiting for the opportunity.

No. There has to be a better way.

And there is; real artists make themselves sit down daily come rain or shine, and write, or paint, or sculpt, or whatever it is that creators create when creating. Every once in a while they hit an inspirational short-cut for an idea, but I am living proof that you can’t entice the little buggers into the net. You have to purposely grab a gunny sack and go in after them. They get dicey and downright rebellious at times but if you’re going to make a go of it you haven’t got a choice. And the worst thing is you seldom catch one, so the whole point of the exercise is to get yourself to start. The hard part for folks like me is to keep the momentum going once you come to the realization that you’re not going to bag anything today. Today you’re on your own.


Well OK. But at least it wasn’t an entirely wasted effort; I’ve got one whole page finished due to unhad inspiration. So now it’s just a matter of, what, another few hundred words or so? I can do that standing on my head. Surely.

Or not.

And that is why you who have subscribed to this site may have noticed there are occasionally large gaps of time between submissions. It’s not that I lose interest, I lose traction. And as anyone who’s lived in snow country can tell you, it’s hard to regain traction once it’s lost. You can chain up, of course, but that presupposes you have tires to hang the chains on, and it appears that whatever capacity I have is too ephemeral to hang my writing chains on.

However, I once wrote a weekly column for the Battle Mountain Bugle newspaper, and I wrote it for 88 consecutive weeks (but who’s counting, right?). It was titled ‘Rurally Yours’, and if that sounds familiar, well, I have a tendency to recycle titles in the manner of the homeless guy who walks along the roadside looking for old beer cans. I did the same thing with ‘Lost in Austin’, using it for a Nevada Magazine article, followed by a book title, and again for a column I wrote for the Reese River Reveille. Now you’d think, after all those written words coming about so closely together and tightly knit, that I had finally reached a point of authorism where inspiration was a given, the safe haven where real writers live. You just sit down at the keyboard and whip out whatever you want on autopilot.

Does that sound unreasonable to you? Doesn’t to me either. That’s why it seems so surprising when I run out of words. I tell the magic fingers to write and they don’t. They just rest there on the keyboard like a part of the scenery that has no other function to perform. Like they’re not accessories to what suddenly seems like a crime, and perhaps it is, this refusal to write something. Anything.

But they won’t, these traitorous little fingers of mine. If I didn’t need them for snacks they’d have been long gone before now, I can tell you.

Ah, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s here is what tempts me to rest on the laurels of things I’ve already done; what’s there is whatever is coming down the pike that I and my reluctant fingers might be able to wrest from the thin air between the clouds of inspiration.

But what makes it all worthwhile is dragging you folks along with me.

Thanks for hangin’ in there.

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