How to Be Inspired
There was a point during the editing of this issue’s special section on inspiration when, I must admit, I felt a little overwhelmed by the veritable sea of ideas flooding my e-mail inbox each day, as contributors responded to my invitation to compile lists of people, places, and things that inspire them. Here was Alex Dimitrov sharing his take on Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1961 film, La Notte; there was Hanif Abdurraqib describing the Prince poster above his writing desk, his records on a shelf behind him. And Nadia Alexis putting Tommy Kha’s haunting photograph May (Betwixt) into words. Or Xan Phillips capturing the optic syntax of Harmony Hammond’s painting Double Elegy. And then this year’s group of debut poets piled on with assorted sources of inspiration: Maya Salameh’s bugs in the corners of wooden sheds, Shelley Wong’s sequins, John Belk’s pro wrestlers. My eyes, my mind, awash with media of various forms and functions. “You want inspiration?” the authors seemed to be singing in unison. “We’ll give you inspiration!” Every day a new delight. I take a deep breath.
I’m fortunate to have a job that delivers frequent moments of euphoria (punctuated by exhaustion) as writers, editors, agents, and others introduce new perspectives and insights on a daily basis, and I feel driven to the page, whether it’s to execute an idea for this magazine or to continue work on my own writing projects. I’ve enjoyed this front-row seat to so much inspiration. But while putting together this annual issue, we’ve avoided taking a prescriptive approach to the subject, as if one could answer the question, how to be inspired? Impossible—doesn’t work that way. So in this issue we’ve tried to show as many and varied examples as possible of the countless occasions for this thing we call inspiration. But let’s be clear: What we’re really talking about here is being attuned to the world, paying attention, being alive. I think of how Lars Horn describes the diaries of artist-activist David Wojnarowicz, how they resurrected something in the writer. “Opened me to an understanding—murmured, glimpsed,” Horn writes. “Such acute attention. Tenderness even, to others and the world.” Therein lies the secret. To be inspired one must be open to others, to the world, to possibility. Inhale, breathe in, fill up. And don’t forget to share. “Practice gratitude and uplift others,” debut poet No‘u Revilla reminds us. “Earning your community nourishes your writing.” There it is again, euphoria. I wish you a happy, healthy, and creative new year. Deep breath.