Inspiration. It comes from all sorts of persons, places, things. It takes on life in ways unexpected, and sometimes dies in places we thought it would thrive. Jack Higgins was known for going to extremes to research his WWII thrillers, while Edgar Rice Burroughs never travelled in Africa, and yet brought us vivid images of Tarzan the Ape Man.
Last week, I returned from a trip to Israel where I was doing research for my Jerusalem’s Undead Trilogy. Yes, the land and the people inspired me. I’ll never forget a soldier I met on the bus to Jerusalem, the friends I made near the D ead Sea, or the tragic tale of Masada and her breathtaking views.
True inspiration didn’t spring to life, though, until my last day in the Holy Land. I was driving–yes, weaving and honking like a seasoned local–through the traffic near Damascus Gate, when I glanced back and saw the entry to the Rockefeller Museum. I’d heard they might have relics related to my book. On a whim, I U-turned and pulled up to the gate.
“Sorry,” the guard told me. “We closed at three.”
It was 3:05 p.m.
Then I spotted the sign that read: “Israel Antiquities Authority.” I knew as a fact that over a decade ago the IAA had done the excavation on the Akeldama Tombs, the precise location in which I was interested, a central point in my novel. If the IAA was housed here at this museum, surely they would have some printed materials available.
“Do you have a bookstore I could run into?” I asked. “Or a gift shop still open?”
The guard wore a surly look, but he made a phone call, huffed, then told me to follow him. In his shadow, I was taken through the empty museum, down winding staircases, along tunnels, past chain-link cages holding objects “over three-thousand-years old.” This was amazing.
At last, I was deposited in a shy woman’s office beside towering rows of archives. The guard left. “So,” the lady said, “you are interested in the Akeldama. Why?”
“I’m doing research. For a novel.”
“I hope it’s scary,” she told me.
My heart leapt. Okay, this was sounding promising. “Why?” I ventured.
“Because it’s a very scary place. I know, because I’m the one who diagrammed all the caves and inscriptions on the tombs. I had to crawl through the opening on my belly.”
“Oh my gosh!”
I could tell you more–of the lead archeologist who just happened to be studying in the IAA library that afternoon, of the fantastic charts and pictures I was given–but the bottom line is: I left there INSPIRED. I knew I was on the right path, with a great idea, and some sense of providence guiding my steps.
Don’t tell me you’ve never felt it. We all crave those moments. Oh, do they keep us going when things get dark.
Bottom line, though, is that I now have to transfer that high, that puppy love of inspiration, into the long-term commitment of a literary marriage. Me and my keyboard. Fingers and words. Pages and readers (one can only hope). Sometimes that commitment means other things take a backseat–such as my blog last month, which I failed to deliver…my apologies. Other times, I have to turn away from my literary lover long enough to connect with my real-life bride, my sweetheart of seventeen years.
Inspiration. It may come today as I plug away at my desk. It may not. It might visit me in a dream, in the car, or while watching cheesy eighties re-runs. But it will come. It always does.
Until then, I’m commited to this relationship. We’re together for the long-haul.