Inspiration is the spark of life for writers. When we sit down at our keyboards, it's like sliding into your car on a bitterly cold morning, turning the key and hoping the engine cranks.
There's nothing better than a reliable car on a winter morning when you have to get going and be somewhere on time. Likewise, inspiration is a life-saver when you're staring at a blank screen and facing a deadline.
In this issue, Joe Wessels got his column idea (link) on a ride-along with local police. C.A. MacConnell was inspired by a personal struggle (link). Kevin Osborne got his inspiration (link) the old-fashioned way: Someone told him a good story.
My idea this week comes from no such lofty place. No serendipitous encounter. No personal demons.
I was watching one of the playoff football games on Sunday and got blasted with non-stop promotion of the Feb. 3 Super Bowl. Tom Petty's appearance as star of the halftime show was drilled into my brain, where it took root.
Soon I was humming Petty songs, some of which are snappy. Then I was singing snippets of choruses. Finally I sought a hammer to bash my skull in.
But the damage was done. I was playing with my 3-year-old son, the words to Petty's "The Waiting Is the Hardest Part" were running through my mind and I connected them to what I was doing. Idea formed. Engine cranked.
I'm not proud, but I have a column.
As I see it, there are two kinds of waiting. Both require certain levels of patience to keep from being driven mad.
I'm leaving for a big out-of-town trip in a few weeks, something I've looked forward to for many months. The anticipation is killing me.
But I've tried to enjoy the build-up as well. As I play through the trip details in my head, it's like I'm already there — and the journey ends up lasting weeks and months instead of a single weekend. I kinda don't want it to get here too quickly now.
It's similar to how I feel playing with my son and daughter. I'd be happy if they stayed their current age for a while. I'm in no hurry for them to grow up.
I'm reminded of the other kind of waiting when I read the Letter to the Editor from ex-pat Cincinnatians in Texas (page 8) or when I consider the messages behind Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Fundamental social change — whether improving local government leadership or healing America's black/white divide — requires a long time, a lot of waiting and the patience of saints.
King preached a long-term view, saying that change was inevitable if society were pushed in the right direction. For many who still believe in his dream, the waiting truly is the hardest part.
CONTACT JOHN FOX: [email protected]