“Turning I would to I did is the grammar of growing up.”
― Anthony Marra, The Tsar of Love and Techno
I just returned from a Tommy Emmanuel concert, so I’m on a bit of an inspiration high. In fact, during his concert, in between managing a solo operation of bass and melodies and rhythms and that constant motion of music, he said: I think life itself is a pretty good source of inspiration. He went on, however, to explain that he gets inspiration from anywhere or anything, and then proceeded to play a song that was inspired by a movie he’d seen—and particularly a character within it.
I find it interesting how artists of all breeds manage to take the everyday idea and craft it into something artistic. This intersection of inspiration and life—of finding our ideas from the lives we live every day—eventually becomes the foundation of our characters’ inner worlds, the words on the page, the stories we long to tell. I also find it interesting that many creative pieces are founded not so much even on general life—but on the people living it.
On another note, I recently read Anthony Marra’s “The Tsar of Love and Techno,” a collection of interconnected short stories that thematically revolve around one painting and the way it and the place it portrays affect a handful of characters’ lives over the course of several decades, primarily in Siberia and Chechnya. The story weaves together time and place and people, binding them though many don’t realize how they’ve been bound, and I remember putting it down after reading the final page, thinking: Wow. We’ve come full circle.
I have a special fascination and appreciation for the connectedness of ideas, especially when an author can craft a story that casts this link like a subtly shifting shadow: it never quite leaves your vision, but when the sun hits it just right, you catch a clear, glimmering fragment of truth. You start to wonder how you never saw it before: that way it holds you still.
Life is like this. We see it all in fragments. Ideas are much the same way. Inspiration, too, is often a ghost. Occasionally seen, but always fleeting. We have to carve our own paths and make our own inspiration, and if by chance, we have one of those moments where the words are clear and the music is alive, we should jump on the chance to complete the process.
Everything comes full circle. We are inspired by life and we find shadows of ideas simply by living it. Hopefully, we write them down, and in doing so we turn our I woulds into I dids, creating pieces we can be proud of, connecting ideas and building systems to complete a concert others will long to return to again and again: for the characters, for the music. For the voice that will hold them still.