Guest Blogger: William L. Alton on Inspiration

Listen to this post read by William L. Alton: 

“I have only one thing to say. I am not an inspiration.

When people tell me I’m an inspiration and example to other disabled writers, my skin crawls, and my head fills up with white noise.

Nothing I do is to be an inspiration. They have no idea that it’s condescending. They have no idea how offensive it is.

Somehow, because I am disabled and still manage to be creative, I’ve become an icon for other writers. People often assume that I have to overcome so much that it was remarkable that I could be creative at all. The truth is, I am creative first and disabled a distant second. I have to live with my mental illness and my physical limitations. These things inform my writing, but they do not dictate it. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. I write, like all writers, because I have to. I do not write for attention. I do not write to inspire. I write to inform and enlighten. Most people who read my work have no idea that I’m disabled.

Being disabled and being a writer is no more inspirational than being African American and being a writer, or being gay and being a writer. There are hurdles to be overcome, but that does not make me special, or more talented. It makes me a writer, a writer with certain life experiences.

My work might sometimes include a disabled point of view, but it also includes a lover’s point of view, a teacher’s point of view or an artist’s point of view. No, I am not inspiration. I am a poet who sometimes shakes, who sometimes hears voices. I am a man, just like anyone else, and I write poetry. Don’t read too much into it.” William L. Alton