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Original photo courtesy of Unsplash by Jose Murillo

Where is inspiration? In the tapping keys as my fingers capture thoughts. Inspiration appears when I work, and when it doesn’t I work anyway. When done, I can’t tell where inspiration ends and I begin, which words were birthed smooth and slippery sliding free in a rush and which were grueling labor to push out.

As an infant, I was baptized in the church. Holy water splashed my forehead to cleanse my humanness. I cried, the mantle of superstition an impossible burden. As a woman, I was baptized in blood. At twelve, I didn’t understand the pain; I only knew the clots between my legs were less sinful than sex. As a mother, birth fluids baptized me in self-sacrifice. No one mentioned that personhood would be sucked away with breast milk. Life’s splashes shape feelings, thoughts, and actions. To create, I unsplash. I smear earth and humanity back on. I wipe away the iron weight of womanhood. I push the kids off to preschool, packing in their lunches my guilt for having personal passions.

Artists awake in cold sweat fresh from dreams of nothing: brushes painting blankness. In terror of the void, they splash themselves with superstition. Dripping ritual an artist says, ‘I am not worthy of the beauty I created.’ Hidden by humility, pride sneaks in: though I am unworthy, my art, as a gift from the muse, should be highly prized. Artists fear that claiming the gift as their own skill will cause it to disappear. So, I unsplash to accept power over my work. Power brings both burden and freedom: burden to create it, freedom to celebrate it.

To taste freedom, women traded corsets for tampons and paid with perpetual judgment. Constraints cloaked in labels like modesty. Serving as society’s lens, labels distort. When I set aside the perspective splashed on me, my vision clears because labels like a corset bind my lungs, restricting all senses. With corset bindings cut and tampon staunching blood flow, I’m free to climb, to hear wind shush, to scent parching grass, to feel blisters burning into my Achilles. Ascending, I unsplash myself from tainted lens to take in untainted views.

I reach the peak; sweat reeking of struggle and insecurity. Society proclaims flying the sole success, but with untainted view I see no wisp of success. The only horizons are try or quit. I cry at the lie: if you work hard, success! I unsplash with breath, letting sweat and tears dry. I welcome failure’s inevitability and rejection’s sting, because my triumph is not society’s success. My triumph is choosing to exhaust the spark of universe living in me. I will not quench the flame but will strike steel of my mind unrelenting against flinty edge until no spark survives. When I am gone, my work will remain: a succession of scorch marks, a cemetery of tries. Sparks fly as I leap… Inspiration burns in paradox as I dive in, yet unsplash.

– Amy E. Roth