On inspiration

“Inspiration comes to us slowly and quietly… prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” – Brenda Ueland

The irony doesn’t escape me. I have attempted to write a little something on the topic of inspiration now quite a few times, and each time I find myself struggling to find the very thing I’m trying to blog about. My first attempt was on a plane, some thirty thousand or so feet up in the sky. I felt that six hours in a confined space, while my fellow passengers lost themselves in a variety of interactive entertainment, would be the perfect opportunity to at least get the bare bones of the subject on paper to be later fleshed out when I was back on more solid ground. These thoughts evaporated quickly, like the small beverage the stewardess had handed to me just prior to the opening of my notebook, and I found myself instead jotting down observations of that day so far. Why do I always go looking for inspiration? Inspiration is the one who slowly creeps up on me, jumping out and grabbing hold when I am alone, isolated and not expecting it.
So it’s caught me, and more often than not it’s caught me with my pants down both metaphorically and physically. An idea has sparked and it has to circulate and brew in my head to stay alive until I’ve been able to make note of it. The response to a question of “what if?” or my mind working through an annoyance or situation I’ve experienced.  Guilt even. If I’m luckily it’s playing out in my head like the scene from a movie, which just leaves me the task of getting those images translated into words and onto paper.
And it’s not that I couldn’t find it on the plane because I was in among other people, nor is it true to say that all my ideas have come during moments of isolation. Like almost every other aspect of pure creativity there is no one answer as everyone is different. Whether alone or in a crowd, busy in thoughtful or physical activity, there is no predicting exactly when inspiration will strike. Just be sure to have a way of recording it when it does.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso
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One thought on “On inspiration”

  1. Great post! I do think isolation helps, and also limitation and simplicity. I get my best ideas on walks in the woods. Simon lived in a cabin in the woods for a month in January a few years ago and he reports that the long dark hours with no electricity and in the middle of nowhere sent his brain into a frenzy of inspired creativity. Jack White talks about how he always limits himself so as to be always inspired – usually to 2 or 3 elements http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJgY9FtDLbs
    In this world we are bombarded with the idea that we have ultimate freedom – no limitations, and perhaps this is not so great for creativity. Maybe limitation inspires new ideas, because we feel we are lacking something so we need to create something to fill/ meet that lack.

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