When I Need A Little Writing Inspiration…

Been working on some new posts, potential articles, etc.  In the meantime, I thought I’d put up a few things that either inspire or energize me in some way.  For me, inspiration often comes from reading another writer’s words.  I love it when someone’s words are powerful enough to kick down the door to my soul and barge in like they own the place.  I’m a sucker for a well-crafted phrase, and I am in awe of those who make delivering the perfect expression seem effortless.  Here are just a few examples of some of my favorite wordsmithery:

Best quote I’ve read to describe addiction.  Ever.
“(It’s) like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth, with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of gun metal.” – Robert Downey, Jr. on his relationship with heroin.

The two most important lines of Invictus
a poem by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

I remind myself daily that I am the master of my own fate, and I try hard to push myself out of my comfort zone, even if only a little.  Invictus was written in 1875 by Henley who contracted tuberculosis of the bone at the age of 12 and had one leg amputated just below the knee.  He spent years in a hospital bed.  I first heard this poem when I was working in Senator Max Cleland’s Atlanta office in 1998.  One of the other staffers had gone to Morehouse College and was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, and all Omega members learned this poem during rush and recited it regularly.

The most poignant description of regret and the energy we give to it that I’ve read.
This is a quote from Darin Strauss’ book Half A Life – his account of being the 18-year-old driver of a car involved in an accident that resulted in killing one of his high school classmates, and the years of crushing regret and depression that followed.

“Maybe I could have done fifty things to avoid the accident.  Left the car in the garage that day. Been alone, not talking to friends.  But I did all those things, and Celine hadn’t done the many things she could have to avoid the accident, either.  All the things get done and you regret them and then you accept them because there’s nothing else to do.  Regret doesn’t budge things; it seems crazy that the force of all that human want can’t amend a moment, can’t even stir a pebble.” (emphasis is mine.)


MUSIC LYRICS

I listen to a lot of music each day.  I’m an omnivore with an ipod that looks like it was populated by someone with multiple personality disorder.  There’s something to fit my every mood, but I’m definitely all about a good lyric.  Here is a tiny sampling of some of the songs that I like and their fantastic lyrics.


Neko Case: alt-country singer / songwriter
Her songs are scored poetry.  Born to teenage parents of Ukranian descent, she left home at fifteen.

A telling line from Hold On, Hold On:
“The most tender place in my heart is for strangers.
I know it’s unkind, but my own blood is much too dangerous.”

The lyrics from Middle Cyclone are below the clip.

Baby, why’m I worried now,
did someone make a fool of me
‘fore I could show ’em how it’s done?
Can’t give up actin’ tough,
it’s all that I’m made of.
Can’t scrape together quite enough
to ride the bus to the outskirts
of the fact that I need love.

There were times that I tried,
one for every glass of water
that I spilled next to the bed,
wretching pennies in a boiling well
in a dream that it once becomes
a foundry of mute and heavy bells.
They shake me deaf and dumb
say, “Someone made a fool of me
‘fore I could show ’em how it’s done.”

It was so clear to me
that it was almost invisible.
I lie across the path waiting,
just for a chance to be a spiderweb
trapped in your lashes.
For that, I would trade you my empire for ashes.
But I choke it back, how much I need love…


Trent Reznor – the tortured genius behind Nine Inch Nails
God, where to start with this guy.  A gifted multi-instrumentalist, singer / songwriter raised by his maternal grandmother after his parents divorced.  He has suffered through bouts of extreme depression as well as alcohol and cocaine addiction.  He’s now sober.  His self examination is raw, and he’s written so many good songs with dark lyrics.  Some of my favorites include Closer, Every Day is Exactly the Same, The Hand That Feeds, Only, and Discipline.

Lyric excerpt from the song Only off of the cd With Teeth

When, the tiniest little dot caught my eye
And it turned out to be a scab
And I had this funny feeling
Like I just knew it’s something bad

I just couldn’t leave it alone
I kept picking at that scab
It was a doorway trying to seal itself shut
But I climbed through

Now I’m somewhere I am not supposed to be
And I can see things I know I really shouldn’t see
And now I know why now, now I know why
Things aren’t as pretty on the inside


Death Cab for Cutie
Talented musicians who write incredibly interesting lyrics.  A few of my favorites:

A bit from Crooked Teeth:

And I knew I’d made a horrible call
And now the state line felt
Like the Berlin wall
And there was no doubt
About which side I was on

‘Cause I built you a home in my heart
With rotten wood, it decayed from the start

‘Cause you can’t find nothing at all
If there was nothing there all along
No you can’t find nothing at all
If there was nothing there all along

A bit from I Was Once A Loyal Lover:

Will I have learned so very little
When these bones are old and brittle?
I wait to talk when I should listen
And cloud mistakes with false revisions

All my friends are forward-thinking
Getting hitched and quitting drinking
And I can feel them pulling away
As I’m resigned to stay the same

And you can’t even begin to know
How many times I’ve told myself “I told you so”
And you can’t even begin to believe
There’s so many bridges engulfed in flames behind me

My favorite verse from I Will Possess Your Heart:

How I wish you could see the potential
The potential of you and me
It’s like a book elegantly bound
But in a language you can’t read just yet

So not a typical post from me but there you go.  What have you read or heard that struck a chord with you?

About Chris DeVinney

Me in a nutshell: mom, writer, former lobbyist, wife, volunteer, lover of music and art, massive fan of traveling, and something of a smart ass. A typical INTJ, I quietly observe anyone and anything that comes into my orbit, squirreling away material for future essays. These days I spend my time writing about whatever interests me (both professionally and personally) and trying to strike the balance between taking care of kids/family/house/pets and me. Occasionally I nail it, hang on to it briefly, and then scramble back toward the center when the tipping starts again. I know, it’s a common story.
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