(Warning: Post may contain peculiar UK English spelling. Side effects of reading peculiar UK English spelling may include - a tendency to call pants "trousers" and an inexplicable thirst for something called Scrumpy Jack)
When someone tells you not to be so superstitious, kick them in the shin. When you tell someone not to be so superstitious, seriously consider kicking yourself in the shin. This is a lesson I have learned time and time again, though being the polite Englishman that I am I never follow through with the violence. This is something I bitterly regret.
We could delve into the philosophical intricacies of reality, its definition and the perception thereof, but it is far simpler to say that for the sake of everyone involved you do not tempt fate. Douglas Adams suggested in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, that the trick to flying was to jump and be distracted a moment before hitting the ground, thus completely forgetting that gravity and physics should be acting upon you. Superstition, for me, works according to a similar concept; awareness is a bad idea. If you observe the way something is, you observe the way it could be, which is usually the way you don’t want it to be. If you notice the time you have to reach a destination, if you notice the state of the weather, if you notice that you forgot an item and tell yourself that it doesn’t matter, that you probably wouldn’t have needed it anyway...stop. Touch wood, hold some item you consider lucky, cross your fingers, do something, anything.
It isn’t a matter of magic, nor is it a matter of religion. It isn’t paranoia; it’s simply common sense. While I’m not suggesting that you leap into the air and attempt to forget about gravity, I humbly suggest humility. We don’t know. And leaving aside your belief or disbelief about such things, you can always look at it this way; if you say, as someone recently did to me, that you have plenty of time and yet you end up missing the bus...you become the focus of much ire.
Being an Englishman currently residing in La Verne, standing in a Greyhound station in San Francisco at night, flapping your arms in an attempt to act out the title of the movie The Butterfly Effect, might seem a peculiar situation to some people...but in the end, everything is a matter of perspective. To me, at the time, it seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do.
Yes, we missed our bus home. We missed it so completely that our rush across the city was almost comical when I realised that we had in fact missed it by ten minutes more than I previously thought. And yet as we, a group of eccentric foreigners, camped amongst our luggage in the waiting room playing charades - badly - I was filled with neither frustration at the knowledge that I would not reach my squeaky bunk-bed for a good night’s sleep until 9am the following morning, nor was I smirking at the ridiculousness of us and our predicament. As I stood there, flapping my arms wearily, all I could think was; why has nothing formed?
Let me explain. For the past nine years, since I realised that writing was my passion, I have heard one lesson repeated many times; that you must experience to write. That through experience, you are inspired. That you can only truly write what you live. And so there I was, an Englishman in San Francisco, having seen things and endured more than many of my fellow students back home, standing weary yet strangely satisfied, full in fact; well fed on the memory of recent event and emotion. And yet not a single story was forming in my head.
I had seen characters in the flesh that would defy a literary definition of realism, I had travelled further than I had ever traveled before, I had seen a city I had dreamed of seeing for many years...and yet inspiration was nowhere to be found. Suffice it to say that I was not best pleased.
As I sit here now, still longing to do nothing but sleep and catch up on the many hours I missed during my recent escapades, I find myself wondering if inspiration too, like fate, is all about awareness. My most unusual, most interesting of ideas seem to come to me when I am thinking about or doing something completely unrelated to my writing. Indeed, it has become a rather unhealthy habit of mine to stay awake until the early hours of the morning, simply to capture the creative result of being semi-conscious and scrawl notes that end up making only a little sense the following morning. Conversely, staring at the ever-impatient blinking text prompt at the beginning of a fresh Word document in a perfectly awake and focused state of mind...results in absolutely nothing creative whatsoever. It reminds me of the times I’ve inflicted insomnia upon myself, simply because I tried to notice the exact moment I would fall asleep and in so doing kept my brain too consciously active to do so.
Perhaps then, the answer is to grasp life, experience everything you can...but never try to look inspiration in the eye. It’s a little shy. Or perhaps I am, as people like to observe, a little strange.
Well...would you look at this; I managed to write something. Who knows if it’s any good though; I wasn’t really paying attention.