I eat words, not in the sense that we all know, not the “eat your words” sense. No, words to me are like the very sustenance I get from sitting at a table filled with the warm delights of a hearty meal. Recently, I had forgotten how wonderful words tasted. I had forgotten how nourishing they were.
I suppose, like anything, too much of a good thing can make you sick. I had too much. I went from writing for work to writing for work and school to writing to make a few bucks. In essence, all I did was write, and I wasn’t writing what nourished me as much as writing what needed to be written. I’d made myself sick in a sense. I was tired. Dark circles appeared under my eyes. Then there was the crossroads. At some point not so long ago, I wondered if I’d ever again write anything new or anything that might get me excited. I had moments when I thought I’d gotten inspiration, but then I stopped. I couldn’t get a single new spark to flash in my creative core. There was no energy to keep a spark going anyway. I thought being in a critique group was the answer. I thought going to fancy literary events would be the answer. None of it worked like it used to. I’d definitely hit a low point in my writing, a low point I never imagined I would ever hit.
Recently, though, I heard parts of the speech Steve Jobs gave to Stanford University graduates. This is not a reflection of anything I think about Apple or Jobs himself. No, I just heard his words at a time when I needed them. In his speech, he talked about being at a low point in his career and life. He talked about how he went back to the beginning, returned to where everything had started, to where everything was exciting and new again, to where he felt hungry again. As I heard that, I knew I knew what I needed to do. I needed the hunger again. I needed it from the beginning, from before the MFA, from before the 12 years of newspaper writing, from before the handful of awards and publications. I needed to savor the flavors of words again.
That wasn’t going to happen in a critique group or in a career focused solely on mass producing copy. No, what I found was that I had to go back to a group much like the one where it all began, a group that inspired me to keep my hand moving across the page, that nurtured those first sparks of inspiration and saw them for what they are–food and nourishment meant to keep the light of inspiration burning.
I found just such a group, finally. They are a talented and exciting bunch, but most of all they are a hungry bunch. They are as hungry as I am to taste those words, to try them in various flavors. I remember now how words taste–savory and sweet in all the best ways possible. Mostly, I remember why I started writing words. I realize now that I’d starve without them.