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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Hayden


"...I've written on scraps of paper, in hotels on hotel stationery, in automobiles. If it arrives you know...." 

-Toni Morrison

Like Morrison, I often write on scraps of paper. Printer paper, notebook paper, the backside of important documents if need be. I've also written on receipts, napkins, and my own hand. I recently scribbled a line on an envelope against the steering wheel as I drove (I do not recommend). A particularly fetching turn of phrase can arrive out of nowhere. Subliminally, even. But these gifts can also vanish just as quickly as they came, so it is best to jot them down. I try to keep them all in a little notebook but I don't always have it handy. I try to transfer from napkin to notebook later but I don't always remember, or sometimes I don't find the damn thing until later when I'm straightening up. Even for the things that are in that notebook of scattered thoughts, I did not create an index, so when I am looking for something I must flip through and skim the other contents until I find it. Most of the words in that notebook are unused, perhaps awaiting a summons for my magnum opus.

My natural inclination is not neatness. I think it is good to be orderly and organized, and it makes life easier. But it takes effort to resist my predisposition to disorder. This applies to many areas of my life, but also to my writing.

I also love the second part of that quote: "If it arrives you know" (emphasis hers). Artists of all types tend to know when a touch of inspiration has arrived, though its manifestation can serve different purposes. It could mark the beginning of something upon which you can build, or it can be the missing piece to something you were already working on. Rarer still (but something I marvel at) is when it is already a completed work of art, sufficient to remain on its own without need of coupling. Likewise, it can feel differently too. Sometimes it makes itself known in a whisper, or a gentle hand on your back. Other times it holds a megaphone, or seizes you by the collar to make sure you get the message. Either way, I'm grateful for them.

For the past few months, I've had them more and more. Every now and then I find myself excitedly pacing for a few minutes—something I never did before this year—as ideas and words and hopes swirl around in my head and heart. Short of that feeling of being deeply in love, I have never felt so alive.

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