How Inspiration Feels


I was walking home on the last Thursday morning in September, having just dropped my son off at school. I was quietly pulling our wagon (filled with my daughter and an assortment of stuffed toys) down the hill on 100th street, thinking about the most recent episode of Big Strong Yes, when Creativity jumped in front of me, grabbed me by the face, and kissed me right on the mouth.

Whoosh. A book, title and all.

I was suddenly very aware of the area underneath my sternum.

About a block from home, ducking under a neighbor’s gnarly rosebush, I felt the tickle of a question from a not-quite-all-me voice in my mind.

Yes. I told it silently, smiling at no one. Yes, I will work with you.

A book.

Holy shit. That’s the thing.

I had joked online about turning my swirling, verbose reflections on the podcast into a series of Big Strong Yes term papers. An acquaintance had (also jokingly, I think) suggested a Big Strong Yes memoir. After I read that, the idea would not leave me alone. Not even 24 hours later, it was in my body, stretching out, its weight draped over my diaphragm. This idea wasn’t planning to leave anytime soon.

I was fine carrying this spark of a book while I walked, but as soon as I got home and set myself up at the computer to announce my new project to Rob and a friend or two, the panicky feeling arrived. My arms developed tingling chills from the elbows down. It felt something like the “my limbs are asleep” pins and needles, under a layer of snow. My feet felt strangely heavy and numb. After sitting with the idea for a few minutes, I started to shake. My legs ached with the ghosts of shin splints.

What the fuck was going on?

A book. A whole book.

My body buzzed at the touch of Creativity. But fear was making its rounds, too: How am I going to do this? I can’t do this, but I can’t not do this!

It’s a totally wild idea. A memoir…about a podcast? Have I invented a new subgenre: fan nonfiction?

Questions swirled around me like a noxious mist, making my heart—my physical heart—feel strange on the inhalation: How do I write the story while the thing is still happening? I don’t know how it ends! What are the “rules” about engaging with a text when that text is the recorded voices of real people, living out their real stories in real time? Is it even memoir if it’s just my story filtered through other people’s stories?

Creativity smiled into the space behind my right ear, not worried in the least.

Okay, I told the inside of my head. I’ll just take notes to start.

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