I think most people have gone through a writing phase. Mine started when I was eight. I was in third grade and my teacher, Mrs. Apel Smith, gave us a month to write one double-spaced page on the topic “Natural Resources.” That was on a Wednesday. Friday morning I handed her my report. It was on yellow paper. It was written in green ink. It was single spaced.
It was ten pages long.
Inspiration is abundant, but although it’s abundant, it’s not always there when you need it. What exactly is inspiration? Well, it comes from the word “inspire,” which originally meant to breathe in. To be given breath is a great way to understand inspiration, because it’s breath that invigorates, enlivens, and gives you the force to continue on.
Writing is a phase because we eventually lose our inspiration, we stop breathing in those ideas and experiences that make us want to write. Before he died, Philip Roth quit being inspired and quit writing. He was plumb wore out, like an old shoe.
One thing that inspires me is seeing other people succeed.
If you don’t know Todd Brown, you should. Email him at email@example.com and tell him you want to be on his email list. Or you can go over to his blog here. I think that if you are a writer, he will inspire you whether you like his writing or not. I think that if you are a bike racer, an ex bike racer, or someone who always wanted to be a bike racer, you will like his writing. I raced with Todd for years in the old broke down leaky prostate division. He was an early follower and subscriber of my blog even though he often found big chunks of it objectionable.
I think that is because like me, Todd has had a lifelong passion for bicycles, indeed it’s his livelihood, and part of that means taking the good with the bad. One day earlier this year I got an email from him. It said something like, “Hey everyone, I have this huge email list from my bike business and I’m going to start spamming you with bike stories. Hope you like ’em, hope you’re not offended, but if so let me know and I’ll delete you.”
What followed was a good, old fashioned bike tale.
“That’s awesome,” I thought, and didn’t think much more about it until 4:02 AM the next day, when there was another email, also from Todd, this time telling a different bike story. “Dang,” I thought. “Two mornings in a row. You don’t see that often.”
It’s now almost a year later, and like clockwork those emails hit at or about 4:02 AM. Each email includes some kind of plug or pitch for one of his products–gloves, bike bags, t-shirts, cycling clothes–he produces a whole range of stuff. But what’s cool is that the sales pitch is sometimes the tail end of a half-bit of an afterthought. The real product is sometimes a musing, an idea, an experience, or a story. Although the emails are new, he’s been blogging since 2012 with amazing consistency.
Now don’t get me wrong. After he didn’t fail, and kept ginning out the stories, I felt a little threatened. Tender egos are that way. But it didn’t take long to appreciate what he was doing and the way he was doing it, until I felt that familiar feeling of inspiration.
You see, Todd is absolutely consistent whereas I, well, am not. Some days I can’t get the job done, and there is always a drawer full of excuses as to why. I started to appreciate how seriously he takes the craft of writing, and it made me resolve to do a better job of getting something written each and every day.
That was three or four months ago, and since that time I’ve been able to write every single day with only a handful of exceptions. it’s not terribly different from having the motivation to ride every day. Sometimes what it takes is a kick in the pants. Sometimes it takes a new saddle.
Sometimes it takes someone doing it better than you, and inspiring you to try and be like them.