“…the most effective cure for writer’s block is to stop writing. Because it’s whenever I’m away from my desk that my brain goes to work. If you can relate to this, try going for a walk or run. When you’re a mile away from your computer, notebook or even a napkin to scribble on, inspiration will strike. It never fails. Maybe it’s the endorphins, maybe it’s just your brain being a jerk. But trust me, it works.”
I find there to be a lot of truth to this. Whenever I’m facing a certain problem and I can’t seem to get past it, I walk away from it and do something else. I’ll start to take a shower, wash the dishes, or cook something when suddenly the problem I was facing has a clear solution. Inspiration strikes quickly, and I feel the need to get back to work before I lose my new train of thought.
The way that your subconscious mind can secretly do all of your problem-solving while you’re busy doing something else fascinates me. It’s interesting because for me, I always notice how my mind will race with ideas if my body is doing something mindless and mechanical (that is, something I’ve done hundreds of times before).
I’ll be in the middle of washing the dishes and I’ll start talking to myself. The words of the piece that I’m trying to write are connecting in my mind and formulating into sentences. As they connect in my brain, my ideas literally announce that they’re ready — telling me with my own mouth.
Inspiration is funny like that. Although my experiences with inspiration are different from yours, or Alex’s, the act of recognizing the fleeting moment of inspiration is universal: You suddenly have a great idea that came out of nowhere.
You’re immediately aware of what your next move is. You’re thinking of a new direction to move in, a new invention to make, a new writing prompt, a new project to start, or a new goal in life. Inspiration is vivid, fleeting, and the source of all of your best ideas.
Like the article title suggests, inspiration will strike anytime, and anywhere. What’s curious about the “anywhere” part, is how it doesn’t necessarily refer to where YOU are — it might also refer to where the source of the inspiration is coming from.
For example, tonight I was inspired to write a short story thanks to a video game. It seems strange to admit it, but I can’t help myself. Inspiration has struck, and as a result I’ve spent my afternoon and evening writing and editing images for you.
Stay with me now…
Minecraft is a “sandbox adventure game” where you collect materials, and then build things out of them. You collect most of your materials during the day, because at night monsters appear and try to kill you. You can build shelters and weapons to help defend yourself against these predators of the night.
In a recent Minecraft game I was playing, I found myself lost and defenseless at dusk. With no other option for survival, I climbed a mountain, the top of which could only be reached by burrowing into and up its center. I literally carved a staircase inside of it and punched through the top layer moments before the sun set. I sealed off the stairs I had made so no monsters could follow me, and spent the rest of the night listening to the monsters relentlessly try to climb the unscalable mountain slope, anxious to eat me.
When morning finally came and the monsters disappeared, I wondered if it was possible to remain there on the mountaintop forever. I tried to see if I could survive there, using only the few resources I had brought with me from the mainland, never descending the mountain to collect anything else. As I attempted to play the game with this new set of rules, the following story unfolded:
The View from the Top
I owe my life to this mountain. The creatures were upon me last night, but I managed to escape them because I climbed up here alone. I must have wandered a bit too far from the path, and got confused, because when I started to make my way back to it I didn’t find it again.
I tried to hurry and find my way but the sun fell low and I panicked. I knew the creatures would come for me if I didn’t hide, so when I saw the mountain my survival instincts told me to climb for my life. When the ledges ran out halfway up the mountainside I burrowed into the hardened clay with my pickaxe. My hands were bled raw by the time I broke away an opening large enough for me to fit into but I found my way inside and up. I blocked the entrance behind me, and pressed forward and up, alternating holding my torch and swinging my pickaxe.
The first slice of light from the moon above as I pierced through the surface cut through to my soul, and the whiff of air I tasted was that of victory. I pulled myself through, then collapsed on the cool grass at the foot of the opening. I stayed there all night in a heap of exhaustion, listening for the faintest sound from anything that might have tracked me. Although I barricaded the entrance on the side of the mountain, I did not possess the strength to fill the top hole. Adrenaline, I prayed, would give me the strength I needed to defend myself if it came to that.
But it never did come to that. I heard the creatures trying to climb the steep slopes of the mountain without success all night, while I fought hard to keep my eyes open. When the morning sun finally appeared on the horizon and the creatures disappeared, I fell asleep.
I woke up moments ago. The sky is overcast and a thick fog surrounds the mountain in all directions. I can’t get my bearings and I don’t know if it’s morning or afternoon.
I’ve looked all directions for any familiar landmarks, but see nothing I recognize. I’m terrified about how far I must be from the others.
I decided to write down everything that’s happened in my logbook, just in case I don’t make it back. Should someone find me after, at least they will know how I came to be lost. (And if you’re reading this now, my name is Shaun Boyd. Please find my family in the coastal habitat.)
I’m staying put for the time being, as I still have half my canteen. There’s a pond, possibly fresh water, less than a quarter mile away from the base of the mountain if I need more — but it might take an hour or more to work my way down there. Without knowing what time it is, I simply can’t chance it.
I set up a workbench with my inventory from the mainland. After some considerable debate, I decided to retrieve my torch from the hole and fill it closed. The mountaintop was my safe haven for one night, and will be for another. I felt a great calmness take over my body as I patted the fill dirt flat with my shovel.
Something strange I noticed, was that after I filled the hole, the grass seemed to immediately start growing across the dirt. It could be my lack of food causing my starved brain to play tricks on me, but I could have sworn the dirt in the hole was a few meters across when I filled it. As I look at it now, it looks like only 1-2 meters. I should try and eat something soon.
It was a good plan to stay put. The fog finally cleared to reveal the sunset. Now that I know what direction is west, I’m using some foliage from my pack to mark the directions.
I’ve planted an oak sapling on the west side of the mountaintop…
…a flower on the north side…
…and I put a birch sapling to the east. Tomorrow, I can descend the mountain and explore with confidence — even if the sun is at high noon.
I couldn’t sleep. My stomach is aching for food, and can I hear it growling over the howling sounds of the creatures below. I’m so hungry I tore the leather cover off of the front of my logbook and am currently sucking on that. Though it offers no real nourishment, it’s surprisingly energizing — perhaps it’s tricking my mind since it at least tastes like something.
I’m going to try to use my materials from the mainland to make a hoe to till the topsoil with. I’m not expecting to find any edible plants or anything, but I might find a few bugs or maybe some worms for protein.
The hoe was crafted successfully, but using it turned out to be dangerous. I was tilling a bit too close to the edge and the dirt crumbled under my weight. I managed to grasp a hold of a strong root growing underneath, and I used the hoe to help pull myself back up.
I’d be creature food if it hadn’t been for that root. Once again, I owe my life to this mountain.
I went to till again, this time staying close to the center. My desire to eat overpowered my desire to sleep for a long time, but after tilling three long rows with not even a pebble to show for it, I’m beat. I think I’m gonna lie down.
I had the weirdest dreams. I dreamt that the mountain talked to me, and it told me that I should stay up here forever. I dreamt that I left the mountain to refill my canteen, and the pond leapt up and swallowed me whole. I awoke abruptly from a sense that I was drowning, and in my mind’s foggy state couldn’t understand why the rows I tilled last night were filled in. I don’t remember doing that at all.
I was attracted to the morning sunshine, and was admiring the sunrise when I realized the east side of the mountaintop was now marked by not one, but two birch saplings. I know that I didn’t plant the second one myself.
I rubbed my eyes a few times to make sure I wasn’t seeing double, and I wasn’t. When I turned around I saw the oak sapling had multiplied as well.
I’m normally not one to believe in the supernatural, but knowing that I am the only one here and witnessing the phenomenon firsthand frightens me. I haven’t been able to take my eyes off of the saplings since I noticed them this morning, and my mind has been racing to come up with some kind of explanation. Unless one of the others came here at night (deadly), decided to plant tree saplings instead of come to my rescue (unlikely), and then chose to leave again without waking me to face the danger of the creatures again (preposterous), then the mountaintop soil has some kind of—
Oh my God. As I was writing I heard a sudden “crack” accompanied by quick bursts of sounds that… are difficult to describe. Like the sound of rustling bushes, but really loud like a waterfall. I let out a scream then stared stupidly at the other end of the mountaintop where the sound originated, which stopped as quickly as it started. One of the birch saplings had burst into a fully grown tree.
I approached the tree cautiously and felt it with my shovel to make sure it was real. It was.
I… have no other explanation except that the soil here on the mountain has some kind of magical property that’s causing the trees I planted to multiply and grow at an advanced rate. Not to downplay the significance of the discovery, but how I desperately wish they were fruit-bearing trees so that I could actually eat something!
I spent most of the day in a confused stupor as more saplings appeared and existing saplings grew into trees. The most confusing thing, however, happened in the middle of the night. I was dreaming about having a conversation with an oak tree. The tree said he was a “Forest God” and asked if I needed his help. In the dream I explained that I was hungry, and the Forest God said if I was hungry, then I should eat. His trunk shortened and turned pink. He seemed to be transforming when I awoke to the distinct sound of a pig oinking.
I didn’t try to make sense of it. My hunger grabbed my knife and buried it deep in the pig’s innards. I tore the raw pork-belly off of the carcass and ate until the hunger was gone.
I know the pig was real, because I have its leftovers. After eating I slept a dreamless sleep, so at this point I’m not sure if I’ve gone crazy or if the Forest God is looking after me. I do know, however, that the forest continues to grow.
I also know, that I’ve decided that staying on top of the mountain is in my best interest. I suppose you might call it an act of faith, but I know this: I’ve survived here this long, and I owe my life to this mountain, and the Forest God that watches over it. In honor of the Forest God, I am going to cut down the fully grown trees with my hatchet, and use the lumber to build a shrine in His honor.
I am sure that the Forest God supports my shrine idea, as each time I chop down a tree a sapling sprouts in its place. Furthermore, more pigs have appeared as my reward for a job well done.
Chopping down this many trees has wreaked havoc on my tools, but I am confident that the Forest God will provide me with all that I need. I drained nearly all of my canteen while working in the sun today, but I saved a tiny bit to pour onto the altar. Sure enough, the Forest God appeared at the shrine I had built for Him.
I dreamed about the Forest God being pleased for all of my hard work. I asked him if I should use some of the lumber to build a catch basin for rain water so that I could drink, but he reassured me that he would provide. His trunk widened and turned black, and when I awoke there were two cows sent for me. I’ve had my fill of their milk, and am ready to honor Him again tomorrow.
The forest atop the mountain has swelled to the edges. I’ve built out a ledge surrounding the mountaintop so I can navigate it more easily. The Forest God’s altar is adorned with a fully grown tree, and I’ve started talking to it casually while I work. I asked it if I could build a small cabin for myself to sleep in, on the side of the mountain across from the altar. Despite the fact that it didn’t answer like the tree in my dreams would, I went ahead and built my cabin anyway. I’m hoping the Forest God won’t mind.
I noticed many more animals in the forest today — chickens and sheep have joined the pigs and cows. When I was getting ready to lie down to sleep, I was startled by the sound of a creature growling behind me.
Now, I have become accustomed to the distant sounds of the creatures. In fact I barely hear their nighttime fuss at the base of the mountain anymore. But the closeness of this sound served to send a paralyzing chill up my spine. I was relieved when I turned around to discover the growling sound was just a wolf.
He is a product of the Forest God, no doubt, but he is more intimidating than the other animals. Thankfully the wolf seemed to be growling at the ever-present creatures below us, and not at me. I tossed him some of my leftover pork-belly and bid him goodnight. I’m writing this entry from my new bed quarters, and I’m pleased with how it turned out.
I just had a close encounter with a creature. I awoke to the clap of thunder from a night storm, and heard a rapping at my door. I thought it was the wolf, acting like a pet out in the rain, and with one quick act of thoughtlessness I opened the door to trouble.
My eyes had only barely adjusted to the blackness of the storm when I saw the creature’s legs. His red eyes lit up in a flash of lightning when he lunged at me bearing his teeth. I reached for my knife and swung it in the darkness, knocking my torch to the floor. Startled by the flames, the creature withdrew from my doorway and the wolf was upon him.
I yelled “Get him boy!” over and over while the wolf clamped down repeatedly on the creature’s back, switching between biting forcefully with his jaw and tugging back and forth with his neck. I retrieved my torch and stabbed the creatures in the face with it. The flaming tip melted its eyes, the scent of which I’ll never forget.
It seemed dead, but the wolf looked on with approval when I pushed the creature off of the mountaintop with my torch. I listened for its thud on the ground below, and the resulting noises from the creatures feasting on it reassured me.
I’m shaking as I’m writing this, but I’ve got the wolf in here with me now. I gave him all of my leftovers, including the milk from my canteen. I owe this wolf my life, and I think I’ll call him Charlie.
When I look out at the forest now, I actually feel a little bit frightened. I can’t see through to the Forest God’s altar on the other side. First thing tomorrow I’m going to start cutting the forest down. All of it.
I dreamt of the night storm, and having to navigate through the thick forest to speak with the Forest God. I tried to use the ledge to get there but was blown over by a swift wind. I caught the edge and called out to the Forest God asking his forgiveness. His roots stretched out as if to save me but as I grabbed them an army of creatures holding my tools cut the roots. The roots coiled in pain as they severed, and I fell off the mountain.
I didn’t really talk with the Forest God last night, but I think I got the message. I’m sticking to my plan of cutting down the forest, and I think I might want to toss my tools from the mainland. If I need to craft new tools they will be made of wood.
Charlie watched with great interest when I tossed everything off the ledge into a lava pit below. Thankfully he doesn’t know how to fetch.
I paid a lot of attention to Charlie today, rubbing his head and belly whenever he’d let me. I’ve quickly grown to trust him thanks to the creature incident, and feel pleased to have him around.
I spent the rest of the day sitting at the altar, a kind of peace offering for the Forest God if I offended Him somehow. I stayed there without saying anything, just being there, existing — acting like a tree myself. I hope that he accepts my apology and will give me new instructions tonight.
Last night I dreamt I was sitting at the altar, repeatedly asking the Forest God for advice but receiving none. After asking for help repeatedly but receiving nothing other than the “no response” a normal tree can give, Charlie appeared by my side. He licked my face, then walked up to the Forest God and peed. I jumped up and began to scold Charlie, and the Forest God withered up and turned to dust. Charlie cocked his head as if to question my behavior, then spoke to me: “What are you waiting for?”
When I woke up at dusk I discovered that Charlie had company — a female from his pack. He looked at me, cocking his head like he did in the dream. I could tell he was ready to go home.
I filled my canteen with milk and started up a fire. I managed to cook a few decent porkchops for me, Charlie, and his new friend. We each ate one chop, then watched the sunrise together for the last time.
By midmorning I had let out all of the tears. Charlie and his mate made their way down the mountain carefully. He took one quick look back at me before disappearing into the wilderness.
I spent the rest of the day collecting materials from the forest. I’m building a bridge from the mountaintop heading south. The creatures that tracked me to the mountain hopefully won’t figure it out immediately, so I can get a bit of a head start.
I don’t fully trust my life to this wooden sword, but I can’t keep trusting my life to the fate of the Gods. I’ve got to be more like Charlie. I’ve got to make my way back home.
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