Confessional Classic: When Lightning Strikes

Originally posted March of this year. This is probably one of the harder writing lessons I had to learn. Sure, inspiration strikes like lightning, but you can’t wait for it.

Growing up in the southwest, I’ve bared witness to some of the most incredible thunderstorms ever. The rolling in of black clouds, spreading like an oil slick across the sky. A wall of dust swallowing the low mountains moments before engulfing everything within sight.

The dirt and sand are soon chased by the falling rain. A torrential rain could last for minutes, or a lighter spatter could take the whole of the day. Thunder booms loud enough to knock pictures from the wall. Windows threaten to shatter in their sills from a barrage of crackling sound. And the lightning.

The lightning traces a jagged line to the ground, burning its image to any retina that sees it. Bolts shoot from cloud to cloud, to the ground, or out into nothing. Some thick as oaks and others wiry thin. You can feel the electricity all around you. The power terrifying and overwhelming in the same instant as being exhilarating and enthralling.

I’ve felt and seen this year after year living in the desert. The monsoons are relentless. That’s also why I can say with authority that getting struck by inspiration is the exact same.

In moments of inspiration I can’t write fast enough. The thoughts hitting the page as if a thunderhead were attacking the keys. I live for those moments.

The trouble came when I waited for those moments. I used to be under the misguided impression that I could only write when the inspiration struck. Unfortunately, like a desert thunderstorm, they don’t happen everyday.

I had to learn how to write when the inspiration was dry. Sure it felt like banging my head on a wall some days, but I put my time in. And that’s key. Where my ideas might not have been flourishing during those inspiration droughts, my craft was. It gets better with every hour I put toward it.

Try to think of it like storm chasing. Days of preparation and searching all lead up to the storm you know you’ll eventually get to. When you do, you’ll have so much in the way of preparedness, you’ll be able to wrangle that inspiration strike into something brilliant.

So don’t waste your time waiting for inspiration to strike. Go head-long everyday. Who knows, you might make your own inspiration.