I scored two goals in my soccer game last night. They were sexy goals, too. The first was a single left-footed touch off a cross I had to turn around mid-sprint to track, and that went through two defenders and past the diving goalie’s outstretched hands just inside the far post. The second was a high bouncing pass that I head-tapped over the last defender inside the box before running around him and chipping the ball over the oncoming goal-keeper with a minimalist delicacy that left me giggling after, only able to believe I had done it because I had seen it with my own eyes.
I know. This sounds like I’m bragging. And maybe I am, a little. But I’m not sure how much credit I can really take for the awesomeness that expressed itself through me, because my lived experience of both events did not contain an ‘I’ which could be said to be doing things. Whatever there was of ‘I,’ it was only a vehicle for physical inspiration.
I’ve had this experience many times over the years playing soccer. Something comes over me, and awesome things happen. I score the unlikeliest of goals. My body just knows what to do, and all I have do as a conscious entity is just get out of the way and let it happen. I feel like a spectator, watching someone else doing this stuff and thinking “Wow, how’d he do that?” If someone asked me afterward, I couldn’t tell them.
It’s not something I can cause or will into being. In fact, it mostly seems to happen only when I’m truly lost in the game, my consciousness shrunk down to vectors and tactics and the pounding of the blood through my arteries and my feet on the turf. When the outside world intrudes and I can’t get to that state of purest engagement; when it’s me out there, running and gaming out scenarios and taking shots on goal: then that sense of possession, of inspiration, never happens.
There’s a parallel, I think, to my writing practice here, and not only in the simple fact of magic moments of inspiration leading to awesome shit I could never do on purpose, though I think that’s hardly to be discounted. But the sense of possession that comes over me on the soccer field is not so much analogous to the moments of inspiration I experience here and there as a writer: it is, I think, the same thing.
Wherever you locate inspiration’s source in your own personal experience/cosmology, it is almost certainly outside the conscious, egoic self through which I think most people experience the world. That’s why we call it inspiration. When the conscious, egoic self is relaxed, released through full engagement, we become permeable, even magnetic, to inspiration (or, maybe, the broadcast is constant but drowned out by the noise of the self; I’m not evolved enough to say for sure). Potentialities which desire to exist express themselves through us, and are born into the world. It’s a ticklish and uncanny feeling, playing medium to that.
But here’s the thing, where the parallel goes deeper. Not just any old vehicle will do. If I hadn’t practiced so assiduously as a child, hadn’t played for twenty-odd years, hadn’t kept my body match-fit (or some not unreasonable approximation thereof), none of it would matter. I could get all kinds of inspired and not be able to do a damned thing about it. The same goes for my writing practice. I plug away at this day in and day out, practicing, refining my chops, and have been for years. I think about it when I’m not doing it, make time to do more of it when I’m not doing enough. It’s hard work, with little reward except for the doing of it, much of the time. But here’s the thing. When inspiration comes, you have to be ready. You have to have prepared the ground, given yourself the tools to express it and give it life. You have to have faith that it will come when you need it, if you’ve earned it with your work. And, if you work hard enough, it will come.
And then, awesome shit will happen, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do.