When Inspiration Runs Dry

The other day, I bumped into an old acquaintance I’d met in Paris a dozen years ago. After some quick catch-up and gushing over each other’s kids, she asked me about the blog and whether I was still penning as Beirutista. I told her I’d become far less prolific the past year on account of “being uninspired.” The moment those words left my mouth, I felt insufficient and foolish. A deluge of thoughts swept through my mind as I braced for a personal awakening.

Does one really need inspiration to get a word out on paper? Even if one commits to writing about what one might perceive as mundane nonsense, the very thought process that engages the gears in the noggin would qualify for a fruitful writing exercise. Right? We can’t possibly attribute a perpetual flow of inspiration to the celebrated early 20th-century author William Faulkner, for example, can we? Have you read – nay, attempted to read – The Sound and The Fury? It is a lesson in "stream of consciousness," or unfiltered thought, which makes for a very challenging unraveling. As a high school student, I struggled to make sense of it futilely. At length, I chalked up Faulkner’s enigmatic prose to his own desire to create inspiration where inspiration was nowhere to be found.

Back to me, and my languishing at the laptop of late. Adam Grant for The New York Times describes “languishing" as feeling stagnant and empty, “joyless and aimless.” Surely, he wasn’t referring to the multidimensional crises gripping Lebanon over the past two years, which have given rise to hyperinflation, instability, political void, and a total absence of answers. Grant is more likely invoking the new world order we’ve witnessed in the wake of the pandemic. The incessant lockdowns, working from home, contactless pickups and drive-thrus, home deliveries – everything that can be lumped into the category of human disconnect.

If the pandemic hasn’t plunged you into a depressive state, good for you. As a species, we are social creatures, and not even “social” media can allay the pains of physical isolation from our own breed. In fact, it is this very connection to others that often provides inspiration for productivity. It is what gravitated me a full decade ago to Lebanon, in pursuit of human connection, warmth or "chaleur." In a world stripped of interaction, of communicating with others, observing their facial reactions and gestures, and linking their words to their body language, where do we dig up inspiration?

The wildly successful creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, crafted her winning work inside bustling coffee shops. Illustrious American authors like Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton sought out Paris and its cafes, as the French city had become the epicenter of culture, art and expression. So what does one do these days, when mobility is significantly impaired and, as in the case of some countries like Australia, totally banned? Where does one seek inspiration while stranded on an island of melancholic mundanity?

Social distancing inevitably renders us socially distant and alone

Alas, maybe reduced output is understandable and forgivable, for many of us are surely wading through the same sea of sentiments. Maybe readers of Beirutista will be able to overlook the interruption to my once rhythmic outpourings and instead look forward to the rebound. I, too, await in earnest some restoration of normalcy, stability, visibility, and inspiration. 

In the meantime, I’ve been deriving some pleasure cozying up to various Netflix series, including “The Crown.” It actually provides compelling context for the claims Harry and Meghan have brought before the public eye. Besides, who doesn't stand to gain inspiration from one of the world’s longest reigning monarchs, and a female at that!


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