I’m knee-deep in a new book based on my Wild Women Writing Workshop, and just as I’ve done with other projects, I’m using visual images to inspire me.
In this case, I stripped the bulletin board above my writing space of its mini-collages of characters in my novel (the novel has been put in drawer until I finish this project), and filled the space with images of women—some mini-reproductions of famous art, a couple of greeting card images, random clips from magazines, a few postcards, even a picture of me taken way back when I was a Wild Woman apprentice. I included some mementos, a few pins, a Chinese fan, and a wooden bracelet.
“Call me Ishmael.”
This short sentence is probably the most famous of famous first lines of English language novels. And, maybe how you would expect a post entitled “On First Paragraphs” to begin.
No surprises there. And that’s the problem. The first sentence, the first paragraph of any piece of writing—even a blog—should contain some kind of surprise. At least something fresh, something you weren’t expecting to hear.
Inspiration is a beautiful word when you break it down. It means “to breathe in,” from the Latin, in-spir-a-tus’. Some trace the word to “the immediate influence of God or gods” under which the holy books were written. In – spire – to breathe in spirit.
And there are those who believe that writing—the art of writing—is a holy act. I happen to be one of those people. This is not to say that what we write is always holy… not by a long shot, witness some of the very books you and I have written, some of today’s best sellers, 50 shades of books that have been judged as profane. Natalie Goldberg’s “worst junk in America,” Anne Lamott’s “shitty first drafts,” my own shambled notebooks. But the act of writing, that is what’s holy.