It can be an elusive thing to a writer. Sometimes painfully so. I’ve been fortunate of late, in that I haven’t had to struggle (beg, plead, make pacts with supreme beings whose very existence I seriously question) to find it. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs over the years, not to mention periods of downright estrangement. But somehow, sooner or later, we’ve always managed to reconnect and rediscover what it was that brought us together in the first place. Like a good friend, you sometimes may not see them for quite a while, but when you do, it’s just as it was before – and the time in between evaporates.
When inspiration is not around, however, it can be devilishly hard to seek it out. Of course, you can always sit and patiently wait in the hope that it shows up. Or you can try to cajole it out from wherever it’s hiding. I have a number of methods for doing this (besides the tantrum-like approaches mentioned above, which tend to be a last resort prior to a full-blown existential crisis).
Not a lot compares, however, to the inspirational journey my friend Aldo recently made: The Camino de Santiago. In case you’re not familiar with it (which I wasn’t before he decided to undertake it) the Camino de Santiago (or “The Way of St James” in English) is a series of pilgrimage routes in Northern Spain, all of which will eventually lead you to Finisterre, which, as you’d imagine, is “The End of the World.” It’s a long, rough, hard journey, with just a few hostels scattered along the route to provide you with some basic accommodation and sustenance before you set off once more. I can hardly imagine anything more inspirational and spiritually rewarding than undertaking such a trip – setting off on some dusty road with little more than the occasional painted arrow sign or scallop shell image to guide you along. No cell phones, no emails, no television or any of the seemingly endless distractions we’ve come to accept as normal life. What a powerful release of the mind that must be.
And so I ask myself, if I undertook such a trip, would I return with an expanded mind, full of inspiration and insight into the meaning of my own existence? And if so, how long before I slipped back, like a lazy recidivist, into my old ways, with all their cyber connections and petty life concerns?
No, I don’t think I’ll ponder that. I’d rather believe I’d come back a changed person. Not suddenly administering alms to the poor or anything. Just more centered. Yes, that’s nice.
So, well done, Aldo, my hat’s off to you…even if it is a little off-center.