Allowing Inspiration In

“Windows: portals or barriers? Windows and waiting go together. A window is a stage, waiting for what will happen next.” –Henkes

I was at my annual inspiration treat last weekend– the Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference  –where I heard Kevin Henkes say the above. He added, “Waiting to a kid is a big deal. They do it all the time; they hear the word ‘wait’ as often as they hear ‘yes’ and ‘no.'”

There’s no doubt that inspiration can come to me at my desk in my office, staring out the window for hours, but let’s face it, inspiration will knock me out more often if I put myself in its way. Change the view outside my window.

As usual, the day at this conference was filled with connections with old writer buddies and enriching keynotes by authors and author/illustrators who fill me with awe. It’s not simply the fact that these people have the courage and ability to write and paint and survive in the challenging world of professional creativity. Each of these speakers shared themselves in a way that made me yearn to be their friend. They were (and are): Pam Muñoz Ryan, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Sophie Blackall and Kevin Henkes.

Henkes, Blackall, Ryan and Sáenz at the Q&A (complete with tiaras)

My quotations are really paraphrases hastily scrawled in my notebook at the time, but they remain words that enrich, comfort, intrigue or inspire me.

“The book I start writing may end up a tiny paragraph in the novel that demands to be written.” –Ryan

“The only thing older than original sin is original innocence.” –Sáenz

“We only see the front of anything. Maybe there’s something completely different on the other side.” –Blackall

At lunch time,  I took a short walk around campus and photographed some of the sculptures in one of the squares. This one appealed because Sáenz also spoke of how we need to lay down our burdens. And I do–I want to!–but take a closer look at this statue (at another angle):

I can’t tell if the woman carrying this huge rock is smiling or crying. Maybe she’s doing both. I too have such mixed emotions about the burdens I carry.

Sáenz again:

“The world needs kindness. It’s a difficult trait to nurture in yourself. You will never be happy if you don’t learn to forgive others…

You have to learn to stand in the presence of someone who is hurt and know you are the cause. The courage to do that is called love.” 

Wow, huh? Who is this guy? Turns out he used to be a priest. If you get the chance to hear him speak, take it. But all these speakers resonated with me. Take Ryan:

“We write despair. We need to offer hope as well. Hope is not the answer or the saving. Hope is uncertainties with openings, the unknown largeness that surrounds despair.”

I’ll repeat that:

Hope is uncertainties with openings, the unknown largeness that surrounds despair.

I can’t say I know exactly what that means, but it makes me think, and beyond that, it makes me feel…expansive. And that’s definitely what hope does.

Back to the sculptures: what if our burdens become our resting places? Is this good? Is it bad? Or is it just true? Sáenz also said “Truth is something that says something important about the human condition.”

At any rate, I’m thinking. I’m thinking and thinking and thinking. And hoping. And finding inspiration for a character arc for my dragon. It was a good weekend.

“There is darkness in the world. But we are the light. Young people are the light. We are meant to be light for one another.” –Sáenz

Will you treat yourself to inspiration today? Where will you find it? Where will it take you? When the view outside the window shifts, my sense of reality–my truth–shifts with it.


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2 Responses to Allowing Inspiration In

  1. zonchan says:

    Thanks for putting this out there!!!

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