139. Inspirations

There’s no telling where you’ll get ideas from. Someone says something, and you get an idea that seems totally unrelated to what was said. You see something, it shakes something loose in your mind, and profound thoughts come pouring out. Or you’re sitting, looking out the window at the snow, and suddenly you solve a problem that has been plaguing you forever. When there are all kinds of jobs to do, you probably don’t get as many chances to be inspired. Or if you do, there’s little time to act on the inspirations; the things have to get done. People often talk about the creative things they’re going to do when they get around to it. If fantasy were reality, there would be millions of little houses, by beaches or in the woods, filled with solitary individuals who are writing books. They’d all be living simply, and they wouldn’t have neighbors nearby, except when they wanted to.
I live in an apartment. Most of my neighbors are pretty conspicuous; the walls are thin, and when a phone rings, or there’s a knock on a door, it’s anybody’s guess which tenant is the one who ought to respond. There’s hardly a moment when I can pretend I’m far from the madding crowd. But I’m writing a book, and I don’t need an isolated house by a beach. All I need is time, and at long last, I have a life wherein every minute has sixty seconds, every week has seven days, etc.
Today I worked with Bertrand, a child who was supposed to be writing a story. He wasn’t in the mood to write, and my usual tricks weren’t working; he knew those tricks, and he wasn’t going to fall for them. Then I thought of Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. I tried something I don’t think I tried in twenty-five years of teaching. I told Bertrand I wanted to work with someone who was writing, and I headed towards another child, who was already writing.
It worked. Bertrand may not have been in the mood to write, but he wanted me to stay with him, and he knew I could happily work with someone else. So he started writing. The story he had been holding inside himself flowed out. I mentally thanked Anne Bancroft, even though I knew “The Miracle Worker” was a movie based on a play based on Helen Keller’s childhood, and Anne Bancroft is just an actress.
Inspiration is all over the place; I didn’t have to have a cabin in the woods. All I needed was time and the freedom to use it the way I wanted.

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