Where inspiration waits

Dear inspiring reader,

I’m tired today.

I could blame it on staying up late these past few nights, working on our house.  (We bought a fixer-upper recreational cabin several years ago and have been steadily turning it into a real home while we live in it. We’re doing almost all the work ourselves — framing, Sheetrocking, wiring, plumbing, painting. It’s as challenging, rewarding, and exhausting as it sounds.)

I could also blame it on my second career as a novelist, which yields new avenues of challenging, rewarding, and exhausting work. I could blame it on the shortening days, the cooler weather. The daily, relentless chores. Parenting. Housekeeping.

But the truth is, I can’t blame this sort of fatigue on too much work or not enough sleep. This is a creative fatigue, the sense that I have nothing to say, and if I did, I’d be too tired and uninspired to write it. Sleep doesn’t fix it. Neither does whining, as tempting as it is.

I have to go back to the books. The ones that give me goosebumps, the ones that make my heart shudder, the ones that make me hope to be a writer.

At noon the next day they rode into the pueblo of Encantada at the foot of the low range of pollarded mountains they’d been skirting and the first thing they saw was Blevins’ pistol sticking out of the back pocket of a man bent over into the engine compartment of a Dodge car.All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

These waters, thought Quoyle, haunted by lost ships, fishermen, explorers gurgled down into sea holes as black as a dog’s throat. Bawling into salt broth. Vikings down the cracking winds, steering through fog by the polarized light of sun-stones. The Inuit in skin boats, breathing, breathing, rhythmic suck of frigid air, iced paddles dipping, spray freezing, sleek back rising, jostle, the boat torn, spiraling down. — The Shipping News, Annie Proulx

“Is dying hard, Daddy?” “No, I think it’s pretty easy, Nick. It all depends.” They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning. — The Complete Short Stories, Ernest Hemingway

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things — trout as well as eternal salvation — come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. — A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean

What are your favorite lines, from a book, a song, a poem, that make you want to keep going?




14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sue Mathis
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 11:00:07

    “Memories you didn’t even know we were making will sustain you, …”
    “Solomon’s Oak,” by Jo-Ann Mapson

  2. Christy Thomas
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 13:13:28

    And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
    Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    `’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
    “The Raven” Edgar Allan Poe

  3. Eowyn Ivey
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 14:48:23

    In reply to my Twitter request
    Julie Lemay new fave: “Waddle-trotting away now,see/how his tail in its coil is laughing/at everything he turns his back on.”-Rogers’ “Boar”

  4. Eowyn Ivey
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 14:49:11

    In reply to my Twitter request
    Nathan Dunbar: my arms won’t be of any use at all / if I can’t hold you”
    from “Killin’ Kind” by @shelbylynne_68

  5. Eowyn Ivey
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 14:50:04

    Another great Twitter response
    Cara Peterson: “when you find out what’s worth keeping, with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” – golden feather by robbie robertson.

  6. Eowyn Ivey
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 14:55:22

    And my father-in-law Jim Ivey emailed me several quotes, including this one from Moby Dick. I wrestled my way through Moby Dick, and found it both amazing and confounding.
    “All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’’s shell upon it.” Moby Dick, Herman Melville.

  7. Sue Mathis
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 15:03:00

    I’m STILL wrestling my way through Moby Dick!

    • Eowyn Ivey
      Sep 14, 2011 @ 15:08:06

      Ha! I thought of you when Jim sent me that. Moby Dick is truly a book to wrestle with, on many levels. And I LOVE your quote from Jo-Ann Mapson. Beautiful!

  8. Mr. Baer
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 18:36:37

    “STOP! DON’T SWEAT IT. SIMPLY MOVE A FEW INCHES LEFT OR RIGHT TO GET A NEW VIEWPOINT. Look…Reality is greater than the sum of its parts, also a damn sight holier. And the lives of such stuff as dreams are made of may be rounded with a sleep but they are not tied neatly with a red bow. Truth doesn’t run on time like a commuter train, though time may run on truth. And the Scenes Gone By and the Scenes to Come flow blending together in the sea-green deep while Now spreads in circles on the surface. So don’t sweat it. For focus simply move a few inches back or forward. And once more…look:” “Sometimes A Great Notion” Ken Kesey

  9. RH
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 21:39:56

    To the red country and to the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

    I’d use quote marks but I may be off a word or two. Grapes of Wrath, opening line. There are many lines that have made my hair stand on end, but that one, as an opening line, stands up best when taken out of context.

  10. Yaya
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 04:00:42

    It is important to live life with the knowledge of its mystery and your mystery. This gives life a new zest, a new balance and a new harmony.
    Joseph Campbell “The Power of Myth”

  11. tkcrossley
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 16:37:39

    From Ivan Doig’s “This House of Sky” right at the beginning:

    “Soon before daybreak on my sixth birthday, my mother’s breathing wheeze more raggedly than ever, then quieted. And then stopped. The remembering begins out of that new silence. Through the time since, I reach back along my father’s tellings and around the urgings which would have me face about and forget, to feel into these oldest shadows for the first sudden edge of it all.”

    And from “A River Runs Through It” at the very end:

    “I am haunted by waters.”

  12. Nathan Dunbar
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 07:06:31

    Oh gosh, SO MANY! But 2 leap to mind immediately. First, from Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s beautiful “The Shadow of the Wind”, Nuria writes in her final letter to Daniel:
    “When you read these words, this prison of memories, it will mean that I will no longer be able to say goodbye to you as I would have wished, that I will not be able to ask you to forgive us, especially Julian, and to take care of him when I am no longer there to do so. I know I cannot ask anything of you, but I can ask you to save yourself. Perhaps so many pages have managed to convice me that whatever happens, I will always have a friend in you, that you are my only hope, my only real hope. Of all the things that Julian wrote, the one I have always felt closest to my heart is that so long as we are being remembered, we remain alive. As so often happened to me with Julian, years before meeting him, I feel that I know you and that if I can trust in someone, that someone is you. Remember me, Daniel, even if it’s only in a corner and secretly. Don’t let me go.”

    And from Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief”, the last line from “Death’s Diary: The Parisians”:
    “They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.”
    The entire passage wrecks me still, but I won’t share it entirely and spoil it for those who haven’t read the book. You all should!

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