In my last blog I wrote about how inspiration can hit you at any time, anywhere. Knowing when you’ve been hit is usually fairly obvious – it’s like mercury racing through your neural channels. Then there are those wonderful, frustrating moments when you’re stumbling around something, feeling the shape of it, sensing it’s there without quite being able to rip that nugget of silver ore out of the bedrock (this is often because the damn lump of metal is bigger than you realise…). Sometimes you’re just picking up one rock after another hoping for a promising vein.
One thing I’ve found is that unless you’re really lucky, that silver ain’t gonna drop in your lap. You have to at least look at some rocks, maybe handle a few. Loosely translated into my own writing process, this means I should be thinking about what I’m writing now, planning to write, or the world I’m writing about fairly often. While walking around with some music on, while waiting in line for something, and, as I intimated last time, while on the John. That headspace acts like a combination of magnet and lens – bringing those nebulous particles of inspiration closer, and making it easier to spot them for what they are.
Last time out I mentioned how looking at some old art gave me a moment of inspiration. Another one that I recognised when it hit me also came from a visual source, but this time from nature.
In my first year in Taiwan, October 2008, I took a three-day break from work to head over to Hualien on the east coast. I went by myself, and with no planning, figuring that I could wing it. This was successfully managed and I had a really good few days. Since I was on me tod, I was writing on the train, and at the end of the day in my hotel room, thus putting myself in the headspace I talked about above.
On the second day of the trip I went to Taroko Gorge, booked into a hostel in Tiansiang, the village in the middle, I got there about mid-day, and decided to spend most of the remaining daylight exploring the Huoran Pavilion Trail, which began right outside the hostel. It was a steep one, and involved some scrambling and a bit of hauling myself up on a rope. For most of the way there was undergrowth all around me, but when I hit the top the world suddenly opened up. All I could see for miles in every direction were treetops, cliff faces, waterfalls, and mountain peaks. And an awful lot of sky. It was beautiful, and I took a bunch of pictures, but I also spent a long time just looking around. What would it be like to live up here? I wondered.
Then I felt the telltale tingle of inspiration open up, demanding attention. That same group of people I mentioned in the last blog, who’d formed a civilisation in the mountains where the guy (Aglaris) had found the goddess in the cave, would live in a place like this. They’d spend most of their lives feeling peaceful, contemplative, like I was right then. That’s going to inform how they think, how they speak, how they act around other Aglarin (the name I gave them) and around others. They’d think pretty deeply. They’d take their time. They’d have a close-knit community because they would have more time to be in sync. They’d share, because the sky and the view belongs to everyone.
I went back down the trail with a much better idea of the Aglarin as a people, and the specific Aglarin I’d encounter in what I wrote than when I’d started the climb. Thanks, Nature.