(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)
One summer I went to a weeklong workshop and there I read a story that made me breathless in the best of ways. It was written by Sophie Rosenblum, and as I often do when I admire a writer on the page, I wanted to befriend her in real life. She continues to inspire me today… and, now, I hope this new breathless piece on inspiration does just that for you:
Oh, how I love to listen. This may come as a surprise to some friends who sit across from me at meals waiting anxiously for the gaps in my monologues, but I assure you, I do. I listen for the disapproving tone of mothers in dressing rooms, the sound of a breakup fight, a cabbie’s cough, a sales pitch: these sounds inspire. They push me to reach into my backpack to find that scrap of paper, the back of a receipt, a movie ticket stub and transcribe, and suddenly, I’m writing. We leave a room, and I’ll say, Did you hear that? I mean, did you just now hear what she said? And often I’ll be met with headshakes, shrugs, a disinterested, What? And it will be the way someone described egg salad, the yolks a little runny for the color, or the dill chopped thick to resemble pine. Or it will be in the tone of the pilot seated next to me on the plane. When he says, “You remember the Bible, don’t you? Girl like you, I bet you know it by heart.” What he’s thinking, I process, is that I’m nothing like what I actually am. What a revelation! And, of course, Aimee Bender, when I was in her workshop (with lovely Nova), told me to tie myself to a chair for inspiration. I thought, “Sure, you think in metaphors, I get it,” but she said, “No” and explained her process. It involved actual string and an actual chair. She said, if you sit down and tie yourself to that chair, and return to it daily, it will happen, inspiration will come, and then someday you won’t have to make that knot, tie that bow. And I had orange ribbon and a red chair, and it’s true. If you create a routine, you will get so deep into your fiction that you will have to return. I’m inspired to get back to that place where I’ve been before, those days where life out here is not as interesting as life in there. And, of course, there are days when I say, “I can’t,” and there’s the back of my hand across my forehead, and I’m sprawled out on the couch writhing with anxiety, and then someone writes to me and says, oh that story made me blush, or oh, that story made me laugh, and even if it wasn’t at all my intention, I think, thank God it made them something. And even when they don’t write, there’s that one person who told you that one time that your story was good. That sentence was good. Keep going, someone once said. Keep writing, they told you. And even if they didn’t, you should.
Sophie Rosenblum’s work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Wigleaf, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Florida State University, and she is finishing her first novel, which was recently a finalist in the James Jones Novel Contest. She is also the web editor for NANO Fiction.
You can find links to more of her work at www.sophierosenblum.com.
Follow @sophierosenblum on Twitter.