Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Truly Inspired Writing - Clemons

Ever hear someone say, “Wow! that writing is truly inspired.” I have. I’ve probably said it dozens of times myself. But where does inspiration come from? Does a lightning bolt strike the author with a thousand kilowatts of electrical creativity? Is it the proverbial light bulb coming on over the head? Eureka! I have found it! Where do great novelists get their ideas?

Some would say the best writing comes from an author’s own experience, but did Hemmingway enlist in the Spanish rebellion to write For Whom The Bell Tolls; what dustbowl of poverty did Steinbeck experience before he penned The Grapes of Wrath, or what abyss of insanity did Kesey fall into before he could create One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? There must be dozens of ways authors find inspiration. It could be as simple as formulating the right mix: combine some catastrophic experience with a modicum of troubling thought, throw in some spicy romance, add a little heart-thumping suspense and a dash of creative imagination, bake it in the oven for several months at 375 degrees and out pops a good story.

I’m sure that’s how it is for some, but for others, it’s a bit more complex. I know because I recently gave an interview and was asked, “Where do you get the ideas for your stories?” I was quick to respond. “I don’t know; I think they come by inspiration.” Then I proceeded to tell the interviewer how the idea for each book I’ve written came while I was still involved with writing its predecessor. I believe God put the idea into my head the way he gave words to His gospel writers and prophets—but try explaining that to the media without sounding pompous or delusional.

To truly believe our writing is inspired gives our writing purpose, but it’s also dangerous because it tends to set one up for a fall. There’s that little thing called pride we have to worry about—boastful and vain imaginations. That’s why I begin each morning on my knees asking that God allow me to be the pen in His hand, and that He allow His Holy Spirit to flow through me like ink so the words I write will be His, and not my own. If I take scripture to mean what it says, and I do, then I have to believe my writing is truly inspired. “If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally...and it shall be given him.” —James 1:5.

I like Webster’s definition of inspiration: “A divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.” Works for me. It may seem strange coming from someone whose first three books have accumulated five awards, but I don’t think I have a creative bone in my body. I struggle every time I sit down to write. I look at that big blank screen and say, “now what?” I feel intimidated and inadequate and so unworthy. But somehow God always gives me what I need, when I need it most, and He does it each and every time I ask.

So now I’m in the process of researching my fifth novel and moving forward to develop the idea I was given while I was still writing Angel in the Alley, released just last month. And once again I believe God has given me the story He wants me to write.

I can’t speak for Hemmingway, Dickens or Kesey, but I do know where my inspiration comes from, and it isn’t from my own personal experience or creative genius. Anything good I have to offer comes from God. I like the way songwriter Robin Marks puts it when he sings, “All For Jesus”:

All of my
Ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these, into Your hands

Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am, and have,
And ever hope to be.

Wow! Now that writing is truly inspired!

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