Unexpected Inspiration

This week I was sitting in the airport in that experiential wasteland when it’s not time to stand up to board but there isn’t enough time to pull your laptop out and do any real work. I had already finished my moderately satisfying dinner, so I mentally considered what I could do keep my fingers from twitching.

I grabbed my phone and opened Facebook — don’t judge me.

As I looked at my feed, I was surprised to see a new friend recommendation for a woman that I had worked with in my past. Within minutes we were connected and I popped out to “chat” with her to let her I know I appreciated the relationship. I noticed her pictures had a theme and I tossed out a purely personal reflection, commenting on her dogs and noting that they were cute. It was the kind of small observation I make 100’s of times a week and I didn’t think too much about it until our conversation turned to the importance of pets in family. I shared with her that it had been two years since I lost my own dog and we hadn’t found our way yet to bring a new dog into our family. And, on a whim, I noted that if she wanted I would share the blog post I wrote when I realized that it was almost time for us to say good-bye to our beloved pet.

“Please,” she said.

Even with permission, I hesitated a bit to send the link. It may seem weird, with more than 150 posts completed, but I still cross my fingers every time I send my writing out into the world. As I press the “Publish Now” button I remind myself that great results only happen through action and I hope for the best. I hope that this time I have found a way to put some little piece of life into the right words, to compose something so universal that it captures the heart and so unique that it sparks the mind. That’s a tall order, one that great writers spend a lifetime trying to achieve, and I often find myself disappointed. Not with my readers who fail to shower my posts with love, but with myself for failing to create something lovable. But, Getting Ready to Say Good-bye is one of my most widely read and loved posts, so I copied the link and hit send.

A few minutes later, she came back and said, “That was so hard to read. Wow. I am so sad but you captured it.” I had warned her that it was a tear-jerker, but I worried that I might have overstepped; I don’t like to ambush someone with a Hallmark moment. I shouldn’t have worried, she came back and assured me that it was the right kind of emotion and then she said the words that amateur writers long to hear, “You should look into truly writing.”

It’s important to note that this woman knows me as a successful, accomplished business professional. So as we went back and forth negotiating between blue sky dreams and grassroots practicalities I couldn’t simply brush off her encouragement. “You’ve got a bigger purpose,” she insisted. In fifteen minutes she had gone from a respected colleague to an engaged fan rallying around my possibility. I listened, trying to stay balanced in the here and now, but before I boarded the plane I had made a promise to connect with her by my birthday. She wanted a plan to to bring my dream to life. I got the feeling that if I hadn’t she wouldn’t have let me go.

Inspiration can’t be controlled. Demand that it lift you up and support you through challenges and it scoffs and leaves you wanting. Give it up, thinking you’ve tapped every source dry and that you have to bear the weight of your dreams alone, and it barrels at you with fresh energy from an unexpected vector. You can no more summon inspiration than a weatherman can call rain to parched garden. You can’t count on it, but you also shouldn’t ignore it when the big drops are falling on your face.

It’s been a few days since that lightning strike and already I am sliding back into the familiar success: work that I know and a life I can predict. It would be easy to forget the words of inspiration and possibility and drop back into what is. But, I promised someone that I would create a plan that would let me be a writer. It might be a crappy plan that I never execute, but I’ve got six weeks to think through what it would take.

A promise is a promise.

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