Sunday, October 9, 2011

October Theme: Inspiration (Platte F. Clark)

Sometimes inspiration comes as a kick in the pants.  

In my case, I had been thinking about being a writer for most of my life. I’m 44 now, so my kids will tell you that’s a long time. It started with a middle school English teacher who told me I had a talent for writing. I liked the sound of that, as long as it fit into my dreams of being a professional video game tester.

I took creative writing in High School—and promptly failed. To be fair, I received my “F” because our assignment was to write a horror story and mine involved the creative writing teacher in the principal (and admittedly, unflattering) role. My story was read out loud, to the teacher’s horror and the class’s howls of laughter. Later, as I reflected on things in detention, I realized I had learned an important lesson: writing funny was radical (“radical” being the appropriate expression for 1985).

I married a wonderful woman and started college with the intention of attending law school. My wife was supportive of this plan, but she said what I really needed to do was write a book. I took it under advisement.

College ended with a young family and a philosophy degree. Having learned to avoid job fairs, help wanted ads, and student loan collectors, I set my sights on graduate school. I had been accepted into an Instructional Technology program (they wooed me with strange talk of “employment” and “salary”), but an English professor pulled me aside and suggested I should double matriculate and seriously consider writing for a career. It sounded nice, but I also liked the whole “employment” part from the other program, so I decided to do both.  

With graduate school completed, I dived into the corporate world and rode the tech bubble until it burst. With a severance check in hand, a friend told me I should write screenplays. I wasn’t sure what to think about that, but I gave it a shot. I ended up writing stop animation shorts and then adapted Barbara Robinson’s classic book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, for film. I had some success, but not enough to avoid having to go back to a regular job.

Finally, my employer told me that I wouldn’t be getting a promotion I had been working toward for several years. Dejected, I went home and plopped down in front of my computer. Three months later my first book was done.

Thinking about inspiration, I know I benefited from the kind words of many people who encouraged me over the years. But it took a low point in my professional life to truly inspire me to write my book. And on the heels of that milestone, I found a terrific agent and sold my work as a three-book series to Simon & Schuster.

It seems that inspiration is an interesting thing—not only can we benefit from the good but also the bad (or what we perceive to be bad at the time).  Often life is friction. But friction can cause sparks and those sparks can ignite a passion. So if the world feels like it’s kicking you around a little, kick back by getting inspired to do something good—and then do it. You never know what might happen as a result.

2 comments:

  1. What a great post...Love that line about kicking back when it feels like the world is kicking you a little...

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