Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thoughts on Inspiration

Last March I made a trip to Wichita, KS for my cousin's 90th birthday. On the way home, I was struck by the number of trees in the fields lining I-35 through Oklahoma that had been broken by the heavy snows the region suffered that winter. These limbs were scattered and strewn, sometimes almost as if by pattern and other times as if tossed into the wind by a giant hand. Tops of trees were lopped off, looking like an artificial Christmas tree without the tip third. There was a stretch that had my imagination running to thoughts of giants -- or giant alien machines -- walking through the area, smashing the trees like insignificant bugs.

I made the trip to Wichita again Friday, returning home last night. This time it was for my cousin's funeral. She fell at home last week and broke her hip. Of course, being my cousin and an ever practical person, after she fell, she lay there for awhile. Then, knowing she might not be back to the house for awhile, she managed to get to the bathroom where she put on lipstick, brushed her hair and then "did a little pick up" of the house -- all before calling for help.

As I sat in church yesterday morning listening to her priest give one of the most personal eulogies I've heard in a long time, I couldn't help but think about how much Clarice inspired me. I blogged about it some earlier this week at the Naked Truth, but it goes so much further. Clarice was a woman who always seemed to know what your deepest desire was and encouraged you -- either to have the strength to pursue it or the discipline to give it up if it was something you shouldn't be doing. When she realized I wanted to write, and she did so long before I really knew it, I was told about my great-great-grandfather who edited newspapers in Colorado and Kansas. There was my great-uncle Jack who was the youngest linotype operator in the country. And it went on from there. When I finally admitted I was writing, Clarice dug out one of her most prized possessions and gave it to me -- her father's play, typed painstakingly on an old standard typewriter in the 1930's. She never let me give it back, telling me to keep it and pass it on when it would help someone else.

So, coming home down I-35 yesterday, seeing some of those same trees I'd blogged about here back in March, I once more started thinking about those who have been there for us, encouraging us even when we've been afraid to tell people we're -- gasp -- writers. Clarice was always my first cheerleader, always there to listen and encourage. But there have been others over the years. Mrs. Winslow, my seventh grade English teacher who, much to my horror, not only realized I was writing fanfic but read it and encouraged me to keep writing, but to find something better to write about than that "awful Dark Shadows". There was the neighbor up the street who walked in one day to find me on day three of a week-long writing jag and demanded to see what I was doing. Then she demanded to read pages as soon as they came off the printer. All I can say is she was either desperate for something to read or a very good friend or both because the so-called novels she read are forever destined to under my bed...they'd be destined for the bonfire except Sarah has threatened to hurt me if I burn anything else I've written. Sigh.

There are others, of course. Poor Kate who gets to read stuff as it is written, mistakes and all, and who hasn't run screaming into the night. At least, if she has, she hasn't told me. There's Dave who is always there with an ear to listen and an encouraging word. I try not to bother him because, well, in my mind it is more important for him to write and feed my need for his books than to spend time holding my hand when I start doubting myself.

I can't end this post without mentioning Sarah who, with her pointy boots and threats to employ them to certain parts of my anatomy, won't let me quit writing even when I most want to. Not that it happens often or last long. It's Sarah who prods me into submitting and who will always tell me the truth, no matter how much it hurts, about my writing.

Okay, this turned into more of an emo post than I meant. Sorry. I promise to return to my prickly self next week. In the meantime, who has served as inspiration and support for you as you've gone down the path to becoming a writer? Have you had the opportunity to return the favor to someone?


C Kelsey said...

And then there's Amanda, who reads drivel and helps to make it better all without lobbing artillery my way. Or, at least, if this *did* lob artillery my way, she was kind enough to miss.

EvMick said...

I drove thru there shortly after the big snow. Kind of odd driving down a road that had been cleared with snow on both sides higher than my stacks.

I drive a big truck...that would be over fourteen foot.

In Oklahoma and Kansas.

Trees didn't have a chance.e

Amanda Green said...

Chris, thanks. And no, no artillery was lobbed in your area. Nor is your work drivel. I promise!

Amanda Green said...

Ev, that area got a hell of a lot of snow last year. It amazed me the amount of damage I could still see yesterday. Maybe it was because I was looking for it -- that was my mood coming home from the funeral. At least most of the damage to buildings has been repaired.

With the weather getting colder, you and Bubba stay safe!

MataPam said...

Amanda, always treasure the good memories.

I grew up in a family that treasured books, and considered regular purchases to be a normalpart of the budget. Strange that none of us wrote until recently, then we sort of had an outbreak of it, with my sister, my dad and myself all starting about the same time.

I've tried to pass on wisdom gained on the Bar and here on to them, and they've at least acted impressed by my so-far modest achievements.

My husband's support and encouragement has been vital. And unsinting. "You're much better than half of what I pay for." Followed by a marked up manuscript, of course.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Amanda, thanks for sharing Clarice with us.

Amanda Green said...

Pam, I do treasure the good memories. Like you, I grew up in a family that treasured books. But the writing wasn't something that was encouraged. I guess there was just too much "practical" in most of the clan. That's why it was so surprising when Clarice first sat me down and told me about the writers and journalists in the family.

It is so neat to hear how you are all going down the writers' path together. Enjoy it.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, I can hear her now telling me she did nothing. Family and faith were all that really mattered to her and she never tried to put herself ahead of another. She truly was a special lady and I'll miss her a great deal. However, I will also remember all she told me and taught me and, hopefully, I'll make her proud.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I'm sure she was already proud of you, Amanda.

Dave Freer said...

Amanda - our roots are what we come from and unless they're healthy roots, it's a hard row to produce good fruit. It sounds as if the root gave as much as it could the plant. You work on the fruit now :-).

For me it has always been Barbs, and then my brother Carl - probably the only two people who believed I would get published someday. And of course I had some help from others... who didn't believe it, and who let me know they didn't. I wouldn't be as ungracious as to name them but sheer desire to prove them wrong was a goad too.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, I hope so. She was truly one of those people who inspired you to do your best, not only for yourself but because you didn't want to disappoint her as well. Thanks for the kinds words and thoughts.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, I'm working on it. Or at least trying to. And, yes, I've had those who were all too willing to tell me I wouldn't and couldn't and there's a great deal of impetus to prove them wrong. But then, I'm a stubborn witch (not really the right word, but keeping it clean here this morning), so I don't take to being told I can't do something.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

My grandmother told me stories. I don't think she ever considered writing them (I didn't know she made them up until I was grown up. As a kid I thought she'd heard them or read them somewhere.) Following grandma around and listening to stories was sort of what made life worth living. Then my dad taught me to read and I read everything, from comics to old books stored in the potato cellar. A lot of them were missing parts and -- with distressing regularity -- the ending, so I had to make my own ending. I was six when I decided I was going to be a writer. I THINK I was twelve by the time I told anyone. My brother told me (wisely) I should live some before I wrote, but he never doubted I would make it and be "famous" (EH!). My maternal grandfather told me my handwriting was too horrible for me to be a professional (his friends who were writers back in the day had submitted MANUSCRIPTS -- i.e. written by hand.) Someone I dated told me I simply could never write in English, because my spelling and grammar were terrible. And then I married Dan and he said "If you want to be a writer, you have to write, and you have to submit." As you see, he was right.