Writing: Divinely inspired and humanly rendered

The story idea came to me in Shoppers Drug Mart.

I had dropped my kids at school and headed downtown to do some research at the Main branch of the Ottawa Public Library. I arrived there at 9:45 a.m. and pulled on the doors. Locked. The library didn’t open until 10:00 a.m.

I needed to kill 15 minutes so I headed to the nearby Shoppers Drug Mart and meandered around the aisles. In the cosmetics section, I picked up a tube of bright red sparkly lipstick. I read the name: Ruby Slippers.

Images flashed into my brain like snippets of inspirational lightning.

Standing there in the cosmetics aisle with a tube of lipstick in my hand, I knew the theme of the story, the basic scenes that would unfold, and the threads that would hold it together.

The story “Ruby Slippers” was shortlisted in several competitions and won one. It is the story that prompted my mother to say, “Whatever you do, don’t write any more about dead people.” It will be published tomorrow in the “Summer Subversions” edition of DESCANT.

For centuries, artists and writers have said the work comes through them, not from them: Divine Inspiration.

William Blake relied on a “poetic genius” to channel ideas through him. him. Stephen King, in On Writing, said that “. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you out of the empty sky.”

Still, the artist or writer needs to do the work.

Blake could have daydreamed about the ideas that came to him without dipping his quill into ink. Stephen King could have lived his life without ever picking up pen and paper. The ideas come to us, but they only come through us if we actually do something with them—humanly render them. I’m proud of “Ruby Slippers” but not because I feel it’s “mine.” I’m proud because I received the gift and did the work to create the finished product.

The picture at the top of this post was taken during my Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia.

The bright red sparkly nail polish on my toes was a gift from my friend, Lynn. Its name: Ruby Slippers. My trip leader took the picture at the end of a work day when the incongruity between my dirty boots and my bright red nail polish made everyone on my team laugh. The image sums up this theme perfectly: Divine inspiration as the driving force behind manual labour.

What ideas are coming to you? What are you doing with them. I’d love to see.

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