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  • The sparks of creativity always come at the most inopportune moments. Today, it was picking up lunch for the office at one of the pizza joints down the road.

    Today was a soggy, overcast day, with temperatures in the 50s after a day of snow and freezing rain. So many promises of the inclement weather to come in the next 24 hours were made that I had no choice but to believe the prognosticators. Even brightly-painted buildings and once-shiny cars lost their color and blended into the grey drabness. Today was the very definition of gloom as I headed to Grande's to pick up lunch as a pick-me-up for the stressed out staff of veterinarians, vet techs and assistants.

    Having no choice but to park in the far end of the lot, I made my way across the slushy divide, avoiding the glare ice patches as best I could. From the speakers on the outside of the building (which are a mystery investment as far as I'm concerned - there's no outdoor seating), I could hear the automated weather warning...something about high winds and reporting damage to the National Weather Service. I didn't give it a second thought. Before the counter inside with his back to me was a man in uniform with a gun in a holster; he may have been law enforcement or a corrections officer at one of the local prisons. The gun made me nervous while the uniform made me feel safe. I glared at the people seated at tables, wondering which was the parking glutton who needlessly took up several spaces, thus leading to my walk across the treachery of the parking lot. Food's up; time to pay; time to provide my co-workers with their much-needed and well-deserved break.

    I noticed the wind upon exiting. It was in concert with the speakers that were repeating the weather warning. I thought of the gun. I thought of all of the people going about their daily lives, consumed with what was happening and oblivious to what is coming.

    I had the Spark: this is how tales of dystopia, horror, redemption and perseverance start. (Additionally, it would be a great opener for a zombie flick - this was actually the first thought that ran through my mind following the Spark.) My mind raced with ideas and stories as I made my way back to the car, arms laden with a box of food and a plastic bag filled with a couple 2 liters of soda. I wished that I had a notepad with me and cursed myself for all of the times I put down the Moleskine I'd been considering because it wasn't practical. I told myself I'd jot down notes when I got back to the office in two minutes.

    I got back to the office. The phones were ringing. An appointment was in the waiting room. The doctor was beginning a complicated surgery that he'd never before performed. People were hungry and wanted to enjoy their lunches and the company of their co-workers before the afternoon madness began. I didn't jot down anything other than a message for the doctor.

    The truth is, I don't know if I could have written down anything worthwhile outside of that parking lot. That's where the Spark was. For me, a Spark isn't just an idea. It's something borne of many senses: smell, sounds, sights. These trigger an idea, and together they produce the Spark. Like tangible sparks, these are also only here momentarily.

    I don't believe for a moment that I'm going to be inspired to write the great American novel because of a moment rich with inspiration. I'm not looking to publish anything, and I don't know that I have an endgame for my little Spark-induced notes. Maybe just to see some ideas on paper and think that they're funny or entertaining on their own is enough. Maybe they'll capture a moment that I can relive; the words will summon my sensory memories and I can lead myself into deja vu.

    Practically speaking, could I have dropped the box of food in the parking lot or tossed it on the hood of my car while I rooted around my purse for a Moleskine? No, not today. Are there times when I would be able to drop everything and write when inspiration hit? There are. There are probably more than I acknowledge.

    One day soon, I'll invest in a Moleskine or a cheap imitation and carry it with me. It can help me keep the little Sparks aflame so I can enjoy the light when I need it.
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