What Inspiration Feels Like

For the past few months I've been struggling with one of my poems. I knew the perfect beginning, I knew the perfect middle, and I knew the perfect end. The problem I couldn't solve for so long was one of transition: how did I move the poem from middle to end? For months I struggled with it, eventually giving up entirely and focusing on other projects. Then, a few days ago as I was teetering on the edge of sleep, it came to me. I knew, for the first time, that I could write the perfect transition. In that moment of inspiration, that instant when my consciousness was finally flooded with the solution to the problem that had been troubling me for weeks, I remember feeling one emotion: sheer panic.

There's always fear, for me, when moments of inspiration come. Sometimes it's nothing more than a mild apprehension, others it's downright panic, but it's always present in some way every time I'm inspired, for two major reasons.

The first is that inspiration is often a nebulous urging rather than a specific vision. When I'm inspired I know that I've thought of something that works perfectly, but until I actually start writing I really have no idea exactly what that something is. Inspiration manifests itself to me simply as an urge to write, and the knowledge that whatever I write will fit perfectly where i need it to fit. Because of this, I can't simply jot down some notes and save my inspiration for later, can't capture it without actually writing. I simply have to act on it.

The second reason inspiration brings me fear is that It's elusive and fleeting. I can't control when it comes to me, which means that it often comes at unfortunate times (as I'm about to sleep or when I'm in the shower come to mind). There's also no forcing inspiration to stay: if I don't start writing soon enough, it will fade away. This means that inspiration often leads me to a frantic scramble through the house, searching for anything I can use to write on (including, in one memorable incident, my own arm) before the urging fades.

Combined, these two two aspects of inspiration make my relationship to it remarkably interesting. On one hand I eagerly await it, because I know that under its influence I write my best writing. On the other, though, I'm always dreading that it will arrive at the wrong time, that I won't be able to capture it before the urging disappears again. Inspiration is at once my biggest hope and my greatest fear, and upon capturing it I always feel one thing: relief.

With excitement and optimism,

Alex