My favorite description of an artist “finding the muse” comes from Vladimir Nabokov’s 1972 aptly titled essay, “Inspiration.”
“It expands, glows, and subsides without revealing its secret. In the meantime, however, a window has opened, an auroral wind has blown, every exposed nerve has tingled. Presently all dissolves: the familiar worries are back and the eyebrow redescribes its arc of pain; but the artist knows he is ready,” Nabokov writes. “A few days elapse. The next stage of inspiration is something ardently anticipated — and no longer anonymous. The shape of the new impact is indeed so definite that I am forced to relinquish metaphors and resort to specific terms. The narrator forefeels what he is going to tell. The forefeeling can be defined as an instant vision turning into rapid speech.”
As a professional journalist who dabbles in fiction in my off time, I’m becoming more attuned to how fleeting that “auroral wind” of inspiration can be. It often feels like mercury slipping through my fingers.
Let me paint you a picture: It’s a Wednesday, you work into the evening, worry over the state of your bank account, make sure food is on the table and then have to find spare time and inspiration to create your own work of art? I’m sure moonlighting creatives can relate to how challenging that is.
But if you’re like me, you seek out a solution — and other creatives are a great source for answers.
“Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project,” author Gretchen Rubin says. “When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly.”
With that, I’m challenging myself this summer — and I hope you challenge yourself as well — to work for my inspiration.
That means writing every day, showing my work to others, asking for criticism and reviewing my work constantly.
Aiding this effort — in a different genre, admittedly — is my trip next weekend to the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine — one of the largest gatherings of long-form nonfiction writers in the country.
As an alumnus of the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas and a current employee of the Mayborn family here at the Herald, I have had the good fortune of attending the conference once before, in 2015, and remember the feeling of inspiration and the insatiable need to put words to paper.
This time around I’ll covering the three-day event for the Herald and Temple Daily Telegram, which will be a challenge unto itself — journalists, typically, don’t like to be covered by other journalists.
Nevertheless, the talent on display this year is as impressive as ever.
The keynote speakers are Katherine Boo, who wrote the New York Times bestselling book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” that was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize; Sebastian Junger, the director of the absolutely fantastic documentary “Restrepo” about life in a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan; and Charles Johnson, a MacArthur fellow, a winner of the 2002 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, a 1990 National Book Award and a 1985 Writers Guild award for his PBS teleplay “Booker,”
While I’m blessed to attend this year, there are so many options for you at home to find inspiration with like-minded folks. If you’re waiting for a push to dabble in a creative hobby, take a few days to consider what story you want to tell and how you want to tell it.
Don’t wait for the “auroral wind” to blow, get out there and open that window yourself — you can do it.
Kyle Blankenship is city editor of the Killeen Daily Herald and interim editor of the Copperas Cove Herald. Contact him at email@example.com or 254-501-7567.