Some Thoughts On Inspiration Accompanied By A Poem About The Same, Untitled Because I Suffer From Titular Disinspiration*

June 2, 2011

When I’m inspired, I get excited because I can’t wait to see what I’ll come up with next. • Dolly Parton

I often feel uninspired, empty, unable, unmotivated, even disinterested when it’s time to write whatever it is that I ought to write or have to write or even want to write. It doesn’t matter how urgent the task is, there are times when I need to put words together and I can’t prime the pump. Not only do the words refuse to flow, I can’t even squeeze out a sentence or two. I’m reminded of this as I listen to my students grapple with finishing final projects this quarter. They don’t have any words left—everything has been wrung out of them and flung onto a page somewhere. They are dry.

Because my own writing isn’t done at the end of a quarter, finding inspiration is a daily challenge; experience has taught me I need to jump on it when it arrives. This jumping can be jarring to someone who’s talking with me—and I’m often inspired by things that other people say. I try to capture them immediately because I know if I don’t, these ideaseeds will disappear. I am aware that this habit of writing things down while someone is talking could be considered distracting and rude, so I always try to explain. That’s why I was delighted recently when a friend pulled out her journal and began writing after I started jotting down what she was saying. “Take your time,” she told me as I started to apologize, “I want to write a poem ‘cause you inspired me too.” As she wrote, I began this as-yet-untitled poem (I am loathe to disturb another poet at work):

Working title:

Untitled Due to Avoidance of the Obviousness of the Repetitive Line and Subsequent Titular Disinspiration

W-OZ, May 2011


Inspiration is hard to find.

It’s sneaking away,

hiding out, hoping you’ll

quit looking, pretty sure you’ll

give up the search. It

might be stashed in

the garage, up in the

rafters with the unicycle that

broke Uncle Charlie’s arm. Or

maybe it’s under the

stairs in a blue cardboard hatbox

filled with family photos from

that long-ago outing to the

Grand Ole Opry where cousin Sugar

danced in the aisles while

Dolly Parton sang.


Inspiration is hard to find.

It’s eluding the search,

and it could be

lying low, disguised,

hunkered down

in the basement behind

those dusty boxes of old Mason jars

grandpa was going to use

to brew beer till

grandma found out and put

the kibosh on his plans. Perhaps it’s

at the pool hall where he

went for consolation and you

tap danced on the bar.


Inspiration is hard to find.

It’s camouflaged as banality,

dressed up as the prosaic,

costumed in the ordinary,

masquerading as the

dull. It’s pretending to be

boring, up in the attic tucked

away beneath the eaves in mama’s

maple dresser, under the mothballs

and ballet slippers and dried

carnations tied with

pink ribbon from the night she

met your dad.


Inspiration is hard to find.

So when you do,

you need to grab it,

pin it down,

tie it to the bedpost,

lock it in the closet,

handcuff it to the banister,

set it in the rocking chair and

tell it to stay there—or else.


Inspiration is hard to find.

You need to drag it from its

hiding place, sweet talk it out to

the back porch, charm it,

cajole it, coax it onto the swing or

sit with it on the steps or

lie beside it on the soft summer grass,

staring at the stars and the moon

together until it can’t

resist you.




I’m sure you can ferret out the meaning in this poem, although while I was writing it, I was not thinking of any particular point I wanted to make. It is only in retrospect, after finishing multiple iterations, that I see the relationship between the poem and much of my work as an artist and poet and teacher.

What is your advice for the uninspired?

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning. • Peter DeVries

* Come up with a good title—and not the obvious one that I am avoiding—and I will include your title with your name (title provided by. . . . .) whenever I use this poem.




  1. “Snipe Hunt” ;D

  2. Hmmm–if you were a girl, you would likely understand the connotations of this title better–much like watching the grunion run on the beaches of SoCa–hadn’t thought about these spurious activities in years! W-OZ

  3. Two months ago I bought a little wooden painted sign-thing from Ross. It is painted a light blue sea green and written in all caps it says: THE TIME YOU ENJOY WASTING IS NOT WASTED TIME.
    I am usually not a fan of store-bought signs with messages on them because I think that there are a few thousand other people who will have the same thing hanging on their wall, or set on their shelf. However, it is a reminder that I frequently need. As I near the end of this term and the last few days with my dear adolescents– as well as the final pages of my portfolio and work sample this little sign keeps me going. When I catch myself dumbing out, staring out the sliding door onto the deck where my tomatoes, mint and sweet peas are finally getting sun, the little sign reminds me that I am NOT wasting time. I’m soaking up some of the quiet surprise goodness that is all around me if I allow myself to notice it.
    I am writing about this little sign now because it has guided me through the last few days of reflections and unit analyzing. Our fiesta de comida (food) was a day full of cookies, chips, and English in Spanish class. The time I enjoy with my students that is not directly related to class content is not wasted either– building a sense of community in the classroom is probably the most important thing I take away from this year as a pre-service teacher.

  4. You may remember me saying that I have a Collectory about procrastination and am working on the world’s longest poem about this topic–someday I’ll be done. I love “quiet surprise goodness.” I believe that our minds need regular refreshment breaks–kids need it too–and school is so often about slogging through the day with never any time to think about what’s going in. Space as a theme of fun is a crucial element–I’m glad you’re getting even a bit and I love your sign. I have one I see every time I go downstairs at home. It simply says “enjoy.” W-OZ

  5. What inspires me? I don’t know. Do you know? If so, please tell me.

    I have searched the far corners of my soul to find that which inspires me. I spent over 20 years in a career where people paid me way too much money for something that I found so easy to do. Never really felt inspired though. Let me tell you, the money, no matter what you think, is not the inspiration. It will give you a comfortable pillow to put your head on at night, but it will not give you a good night’s sleep. I completed a MBA program that “taught” me to be a manager and a leader. They also asked that inspiration question a lot. I could give the answers they wanted, but they were never really my answers. The search for inspiration is a tricky one, for sure. I am still not sure if it is the answer to: “What inspires me?”, that keeps changing or the meaning of the question itself. Is what inspired me in my twenties the same as what inspires me now in my 40s? Or, is it just what I want from the inspiration that has changed?

    The MAT program taught me how to operate a classroom. I only now realize how much I didn’t know. I also got many opportunities to reflect on my feelings about my teaching philosophy, diversity issues, my views on education, etc. and I have been able to get my thumb down on most of these things so that I know how my class will look. Now the inspiration question again, huh? What is going to get me to go into that classroom and give my best every day?

    Funny you should ask at this time. I think I actually might have an answer for you. While the MAT program gave me a lot of framework to help answer the question, I was able to explore this question in a much deeper fashion recently. So, what inspires me? It is simple really. I had made a mistake in my personal search for the answer. It was never about what I needed. For me it has always been about what others need. I am driven by helping others. I like to see someone get to a better place than they are now. I like to see a new path of life open up in a person’s eyes as they see beyond the what is to the what could be. Sometimes I can do that by teaching someone math. Sometimes someone just needs me to listen. Sometimes someone just needs a shoulder to lean on. Sometimes you have to carry them on your back. Doesn’t matter what the needs are. If someone needs me, I have my inspiration.

  6. Wow, Jay–there’s a poem here too–I especially love the final paragraph. I find it inspiring! W-OZ

  7. Soft Searching This would be the title I would give your poem. If you look to hard or try to desperately to find inspiration, it eludes you. I love the poem! It was a great way to start my morning! Interesting how reading about how inspiration is hard to find can itself inspire!

    • So true regarding searching too hard. One of the reasons I write poetry and make art is because they occupy my mind and allow the other problems I’m working on to percolate–often the answer to a challenge at work can be found between the lines of a poem! So good to hear from an old friend!! W-OZ

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