I am a writer.
First and foremost, it is my job to have thoughts and ideas, to explore them, and winnow the good from the bad. When I have had my thoughts and explored my ideas, when I have come to satisfactory conclusions about them, I commit them to print and make them available to whoever might be interested.
When life is rich in experience, when one lives in a stimulating environment, thoughts and ideas are like grapes—they come in bunches. But when one lives in a state of solitude, the harvest is not so rich—in fact, the vineyard may seem fallow.
This morning while I was taking a shower, I wondered what my next article should be. I’ve written a lot about communication and creativity, but I couldn’t really decide what might be an interesting topic for you. I was actually considering who my favourite fictional spy from childhood was—it’s was a toss-up between Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin for men; Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel was hands down the winner for the distaff side.
Then it happened—that little spark of incident that started it all.
I was just reaching for my towel when I heard a soft and pleasant sound, that of a solo bagpipe. I am descended of Scottish Lairds! (well, all right, some of my ancestors were from Scotland, almost the same thing) and in my view, the bagpipe is one of the three greatest musical instruments in the world. So naturally, whoever was playing had my attention.
At first I thought it might be the ring-tone on my mobile phone, but that wasn’t it. Then, because the sound was soft, I thought it might be some other device in another room, but I realized I have no other devices. So it must be someone outside. I raced from one end of the apartment to the other, leaving little puddles in my wake, but I couldn’t see the ground. I even called out, ‘don’t leave!’
My immediate inclination was to rush outdoors, but on reflection, I doubted my neighbours would understand or appreciate the immediacy of my enthusiastic need. I flung on my clothing and raced outside, but by the time I had reached the ground, the ‘piper’ had gone but left an intangible present for me.
Such a gift!
Suddenly, I had the idea for this article (do tell me how you liked it), and several thoughts about the book I’m writing. Although I haven’t painted in many months, I felt a desire to get my easel and paints from storage and ‘transcribe’ some of the images this mysterious experience had given me (I probably won’t; I’m a lousy artist). I even ironed my handkerchiefs in a tartan pattern (I simply reorganized the wrinkles).
These are some of the fruits of inspiration.
I’m not sure what’s more exciting—having an entire set of ideas all at once, or watching a single moment turn into a vast landscape of possibility. Inspiration really is an important part of creativity—something outside yourself that prompts you to act. It is an instant that opens an entire vista of expression, and simultaneously fills you with an enthusiasm and energy for that expression.
In my own creative life, my greatest inspirations have been deceptively simple. A single poem was inspired by a phrase in a book; an entire story by a misunderstood sentence. I once composed a piece of music based on a theme of four notes. Simplicity is the richest inspirational element. Everything begins with ONE.
As to the pipe music, it may be that one of my pibroch-playing ancestors has pierced the veil of Time and Space, and has reached through the vasty ages to play me this ‘wee aire’. (That seems rather unlikely—it would hardly be a local call.) It may be that some hiccup on my brain called forth this fantastic memory from the Well of Forgetfulness.
Perhaps I missed a call on my mobile after all.
It doesn’t matter.
As to the piper, your name is a mystery to me, and I will probably never know you. But the world will know you. I’m making you a character in my book.