I imagine that the first time I spoke, I did so out of necessity.
I’m not talking about my first word. I mean the first time I uttered a sound with the intention of expressing my singular, interior wants or needs to the people around me. I can’t remember the moment, but I visualize it now, and within the realm of my unbound imagination, I watch that first cognizant communication unfold. The “Sunrise” movement of sprach Zarathustraa (the epic song in 2001 A Space Odyssey) plays in the background.
I’m standing in my crib or staring at my mom and the music plays: “Baaaa buuum BAH DUUMMM! Dom, dom, dom, dom, dom duumm. BAH DAAAAAH!” Then I scream into the open space before me and the song swells, “Brrreeee dah DEEEE!” as my tiny vocal chords vibrate my triumphant cry* of intention and purpose and all those present cannot but turn and acknowledge my existence.
That’s not how it is when I write today.
In reality, I don’t find my voice, or my inspiration, very easily.
More often, I sit in front of my computer and stare at a blank screen. No, that’s a lie. I stare at the Internet. Not one site in particular, but a glorious succession of sites, full of information that distracts and awes and discourages me until I’m absolutely miserable. If you’re struggling to understand what I mean, well, that means you’ve never wasted hours on the internet and you’re probably a much better writer than I. So let me explain the feeling: essentially, wasting all my writing time on the internet is the intellectual equivalent of eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream all alone at my desk. It is delicious and it makes me want to die. But that’s getting into “how I write”. We’re talking inspiration.
The only way I can find inspiration is to get out and to talk to people. And, once the conversation has begun, to listen. Even if by some miracle I have a good idea, I find I must talk about it, flesh it out, and bring it to life first in conversation. Only later do I transfer it to the page.
People inspire me with their stories, but also with their sadness and their joy. I’m most influenced by stories of imperfection, mistakes, heartache. To me, these are the essence of life. Out of heartbreak comes humor, love, happiness which one can truly appreciate.
In these moments, when I use my tiny voice to strike up conversation and draw out the stories of the people around me, inspiration abounds. I guess it could be considered stealing. But I can’t help it. It’s the lives of the people around me, or dare I say the stories they live, which inspire in me a need to write. A need like hunger or thirst, nagging at me until I must cry out on their behalf and mine.
*I assume, based on descriptions of my early childhood, that my first intentional vocal expression was not a gurgle or a coo, but a scream—possibly a squeal.