This topic hits home for me. I’ve long grappled with the concept of “inspiration,” how we obtain it… how we capitalize on it… Humans have pursued inspiration for thousands of years. Consider muses. They attest to the fact that inspiration is not only yearned for but sought. In an attempt to capture inspiration, we look beyond ourselves. When found, we tend to bottle inspiration, hide it from others so that in quiet, dark hours we may retrieve those bright ideas and unravel them, slowly come to know their fibres. In a way, we are notorious hoarders. Seekers of inspiration look for the next moment, idea, sunset or love affair to fuel them. It is my belief that we are all seekers but what each individual considers “inspirational” differs substantially based on culture, interests or religious belief.
I am, admittedly, quite the night wanderer. Some nights I rise from my bed at 1:00 a.m. to walk in silence, soothed by night. I have always loved solitude. To sit in moonlight, skin shimmering and white, makes me feel alive and in these moments I remember that life itself is something ephemeral. Such realizations often prod my desire to write. I find myself describing the way mist floats under street lamps, the way light descends, paints buildings. It’s a wonderful feeling, to feel inspired.
When I tell people that I’m a writer they often romanticize the concept. One friend of mine claimed that she imagines writers to sit around drinking tea in cozy armchairs, poems running from one’s tongue to the page and while there is truth in this image, it must be said that we do not breathe inspiration as we breathe air. Writing is a long and sometimes terrible process. Some nights I awake at 4:00 am and write frantically in bed. Some nights I drift from conversations, leave bars early. I enjoy this feeling, this want to write. But most days, I sit down at a desk and force myself to work. Maybe I’ll write a single line, a lonely paragraph. Maybe I’ll write ten pages. But to wait for inspiration would hinder my ability to grow and advance. It is of a most fugitive nature. It cannot be relied upon.
We often associate inspiration with creative pursuit but in fact inspiration fuels all areas of life. The mountaineer feels an initial bout of inspiration, a deep longing to summit some tall and dangerous mountain, but perhaps while he is stuck on the mountain’s edge, snow swirling in his ears, he feels less than inspired to carry on. But what makes him a mountaineer is his perseverance, his dedication, his sheer unwillingness to abandon a most rigorous pursuit.
Inspiration holds a special place in life and I in no way dismiss its importance but I suggest that in moments when inspiration casts us aside, we fight back. We will not stand to be deserted. We will not be trampled on by this fleeting tease. We will carry on with or without our inspirational partner and I believe that in that fight, in that stubborn persistence, success is born.
As always, my love of history shaped many of my ideas and opinions on inspiration. One of my favourite movies is Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen and starring Owen Wilson. In the film, Wilson’s character, a nostalgic screenwriter and struggling novelist, travels back in time to socialize with the likes of Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The film explores the ways in which struggling artists romanticize the past, believe it to be filled with inspirational gems. I believe this is because, as modern dwellers, we look upon the past with biased insight. We understand how successful certain figures became and surely their incredible success points to a more “inspirational” era! Well, no. I don’t think so. We were not around to witness their breakdowns and late night toiling. Instead, we are presented with a polished and well received end product. As far as I’m aware, neither Kafka nor Yeats stumbled upon some magic potion that infused their minds with delightful inspiration. They worked. They worked incredibly hard. And we must too. So don’t wait for inspiration to pursue whatever project interests you. Go! Go now and if inspiration ensues then lucky you!