I originally wrote this piece for Sandy Nathan’s site – “Your Shelf Life” where it was posted on May 17, 2011. I think inspiration is the stuff of our dreams and so I’m sharing it here.
Inspiration – that elusive gem, that idea that transforms our thoughts and our maybes into the essential themes of our stories. But, from what magical place does that indefinable pearl emerge? For me, as a nurse and humanitarian aid worker, I find inspiration everywhere. I stand in line at the bank and watch as a woman peers into a glass shelf, and seeing her own reflection, preens with undisguised admiration. I write furiously. I want to capture the set of her eyes, the slight grin as she realizes how much she likes her own image. Everywhere I look there is inspiration and, eager to record it all, I am never without a pen and paper.
When I first went to Afghanistan, I knew at once that everything there was inspirational, not just the people, but the rugged landscape, the steaming green tea, all of it sustenance for this writer’s soul. Afghanistan is a place bursting with inspiring people and inspiring stories at every turn, and my first novel, Lipstick in Afghanistan, was written not just to share my images of that land, but to help dispel the ceaseless illusion that the people of Afghanistan are either terrorists or wild eyed peasants. While Afghanistan’s ethnic and border wars have long shaped its violent and stubborn history, it has unfairly colored the world’s view of its citizens as well. But the reality is that the Afghans I know are at once both resilient and graceful, and it was those diverse, dissimilar and ultimately inspiring qualities I hoped to bring to my story.
Afghanistan remains a place of hope and possibilities, but also a place with achingly sad stories, where even a worn and weathered rock can be a source of inspiration. But there is inspiration here at home as well. I find it in my patients struggling to get well, or in the faces of the fretful refugees I know. I find it too in rush hour traffic and in lines at the bank. The world is filled with miracles and with inspiration, and I hope that everyone, especially writers, finds their own miracles and shares them with the rest of us.