Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Never Noticed That House Before

Recently I had an inspiration about the book I'm working on now. It came in the middle of writing an email to a friend, on a completely different subject. It arrived as a sensation of dropping--something like that jerky lowering of a person sitting in a basket, of a person being rescued from somewhere high up. Drop, drop, drop; at each level another quick glimpse of the possibility. Then, suddenly, the whole of it--the beginning, the end, how it would feel, its meaning. This incorporated all the work I've done on it, and it also reached backward to an initial ambition for the book lost in the intervening work. The inspiration shone a beam on what I know, what I have to give--in this case. Afterward I had the same feeling I have when I suddenly notice a house I've passed hundreds of times but have never seen. The components of the inspiration weren't unfamiliar. They were rearranged, re-envisioned. 
I suppose I was readying myself for this the other night in class. I found myself saying that over time I'd come to have faith in the creative experiences I'd had as a child, when I had no notion of work habits and only proceeded by inspiration. Suddenly I'd have an image in my mind and I'd run to write it or draw it or build it. 
There seems to be a difference between a good idea and a whole one. Inspiration is all encompassing. It's possible to root around for good ideas, but it seems that the whole ones arrive on their own time schedule. Probably it's sensible to practice technique on good ideas so you'll be ready when inspiration arrives, but I'm not even convinced of the necessity. Inspiration can guide and teach, too. Usually it is inspiration that prompts people to learn an art form, to fulfill the vision.
Who knows what will become of my inspiration? That is another matter.

I remembered how beautifully the painter Agnes Martin wrote about inspiration. Here are a few lines from An Untroubled Mind.
Inspiration is pervasive but it is not a power
It's a peaceful thing
It is a consolation even to plants and animals
It is an untroubled mind.
Of course we know that an untroubled state of mind cannot last so we say that inspiration comes and goes but really it is there all the time waiting for us to be untroubled again. We can therefore say it is pervasive. Young children are more untroubled than adults and therefore have many more inspirations. All the moments of inspiration together make what we call sensibility. The development of sensibility is the most important thing for children and adults but it is much more possible in children. In adults it would be accurate to say the awakening to their sensibility is the most important thing.


  1. Alice, Delighted to read your new blog. I read very few but yours I know I will return to often. Thank you and best wishes. We met a few years ago at the Unitarian Church in Montclair. I am a poet. I have just fnished writing my first novel. Arrogance for sure, but I am entranced.

  2. Thank you, Julie. I know who you are, of course. Best wishes for the novel--it's hard!

  3. Hi Alice,

    I'm enjoying your blog. Thank you!

  4. I tried to post a photograph with that last comment so that you'd know it's me: Victoria Patterson--Tory. But I'm not adept at these things. Anyway, count me as one of your appreciative readers.