01/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Afflatus: It's Elusive to Me

Afflatus is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "a divine imparting of knowledge or power: inspiration." I had never seen this word until I read my son's college essay. I was slightly embarrassed that I needed to look up a word used in a teenager's writing. Of course, I did not mention it to him. When did our kids become smarter than we are?

I can easily say that when I was seventeen, no divine knowledge was imparted upon me. Inspiration never drove the way I wrote. I did whatever assignment I was given, but without much introspection. I was too busy deciding what to do over the weekend. Today, at least in this house, the essays and creative writing that come from two teenage boys are truly remarkable. I know that the school they attend has a lot to with it... urging them to "unpack the imagery" of the literature they read, as well as other pretentious and perhaps unnecessary instructions. A better explanation is that they are simply more creative, more inspired, and definitely more resourceful than I was at their ages.

The artistry of writing a good piece is a special gift. The skill to draw someone in and keep him entertained or interested enough to finish is uncommon. My dad had it, but he never finished that "great American novel" that he struggled with for so many years. Instead he put his talents to use writing jingles for ads back in the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. He was quite successful. I know that he wrote a screenplay or two as well, and even sold one to Warner Bros. But he was a tortured soul. I know what he really wanted was to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Sure, we'd all love to have a book published. But few of us really want to expend the energy and deal with the emotional toll that it would take on ourselves and those around us. And even fewer are lucky enough to have afflatus! I think my son has it and I will keep my dictionary handy.