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The Spark

Pam Uphoff

It’s Only Human

I was all set to write a cute “Look! I’m on vacation, beautiful scenery, all the family . . . and here I am writing” post with pictures to make you all jealous.

Word Press defeated me. No pictures. Sorry.

But while I was musing on the obsession to write that has me working even on vacation, I started wondering why.

Oh, in lieu of pictures, think brisk breeze, the constant roar of the surf in the background. Cliffs, wlaking trails, tall coastal redwoods and picturesque twisted cedars.

The air is almost too cool for t-shirts in the morning. You all have permission to hate me. Especially the people back in Texas. The northern Califoria coast has highs that might hit 70, nighttime lows in the high fifties. Envy me.

Or something. It’s not a cheap vacation, but we do this family get together once a year, usually on the northern California coast. Beautiful scenery, good company . . .

And by the third day, the computer is coming out and I’m typing away. It’s not that I like my job. It’s convenient, the dress casual and so forth, but the pay and the hours suck. Five thirty in the morning, can’t get back to sleep, might as well write. _And_ inspiration is most likely to hit about the time you start thinking of heading for the bed.

But this is vacation. So I’ll go for a walk, work on the jigsaw puzzle–it’s a beaut, need to stop letting my sister choose the puzzles. They take all of us, working sporadically, all week to finish. Yes, another family tradition. Played nine holes of golf Monday. Yes, badly. No, I’m not mentioning any numbers, I play once a year when the golf-mad sister and brother-in-law drag the rest of us out to the links.

And then, I’ll get an idea, and just have to write it down, right then. Dinner preps going on around me, as I rush to finish this one idea . . .

I think all creative work must be a little bit like this. The idea hits, and the picture must be at least sketched out, the scene jotted down, the tune hummed a few times, or a quick diagram of that machine . . . Maybe later the craft will be applied, and the combined product of vision, hard work and skill can be enjoyed by many.

But that first flash of inspiration, the idea that won’t shut up, that tiny touch of genius . . . That’s what makes us writers. That spark drives us to get it all down on paper. I don’t know if that can be taught. But I suspect we all have it. I think it is one of the things that lifts us above the rest of the animals. We see it in our minds first, then we make it.

We just aren’t trained to recognize it, aren’t in the habit of thinking in terms of grasping that spark and fanning it into flame. I’ve seen it over and over on fan sites. “I had this neat idea, someone should write it . . . ” answered with “No, _you_ should write it.” And they do. Oh, the first one is rough, but most active readers have a subconscious grasp of the form of a story. The grammar may need work. ::ahem:: punctuation and spelling may be a bit . . . unique. But all that can be fixed. It just takes time and putting in the effort.

Do some people get trained to supress that spark? The public schools certainly seem to try. And the followers of the Progressive Ideals don’t seem to do a lot of thinking . . . but do they still have that spark, deep behind the conditioning? What about the “entitlement mentality” we hear so much about? Is the spark turned toward working the system rather than getting out of it? I certainly hope so. Because without the spark, mankind would still be slowly trying to work out this “fire” thing.

So nurture your spark. You may have to search for it, but it’s there.

Follow it, to write, to make music or pictures. To build new things, invent new gadgets and get us to the stars. See it in your mind, and then bring it out into the Real World.

And then . . . having once let inspiration in, harnessed it to your will . . . you too can obsesively work through your vacation, and enjoy every minute of it.

OK, one last try . . .

Never mind. The Spark is not with me tonight.






  1. Okay. Here’s what I did yesterday, on my day off… Just a bit from Gion Matsuri, in Kyoto.

    First, a picture of some dancers.

    Dancer Gion Matsuri 2014

    Then, of course, we have a video of the dancers. I hope you can hear the music!

    Might be a spark there for someone…
    ‘nother Mike

    July 18, 2014
    • Laura M #

      I could see them. Very cool.

      July 18, 2014
  2. I’m kinda afraid of getting ideas while on my next trip (not that the little beggars need any encouragement). I can’t take my computer and won’t have internet access, so I’ll be dragging along my little black book of story-bits, and a notepad and pen for ones that flat refuse to go back to sleep.

    July 18, 2014
  3. “The air is almost too cool for t-shirts in the morning. You all have permission to hate me. ”
    But I’d live a picture of you with no tee shirt.

    July 18, 2014
    • Err, forty byears ago, yeah. Now? I seriously doubt it. 🙂

      July 18, 2014

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