Some writers will tell you that inspiration is for whimps, or that it doesn't really exist and the only way to produce as a writer is to put your butt in a chair until the ideas come. I take a different approach with inspiration, I want to be inspiration's friend and I want to know all I can about our on-again, off-again relationship.
When I feel inspired to write a poem, I’m usually so pleased to have creativity on my side again I rarely stop to notice where and when I was given the impetus to write. However when I’ve hit a dry spot in my creativity and nothing seems to inspire me I spend a good deal of time pondering this mysterious process.
I would like to suggest that there are two distinct kinds of inspiration. The first is Primary Inspiration; of course each of us has our own distinct sources of this form of inspiration. For me these sources include solitary sojourns into nature, walks in the city which involve people watching, relationships with people I love and people I barely know, also collect small snippets of conversation I hear in cafes and other public places. Then of course I have to mention my senses which are arbiters of primary inspiration.
Often a phrase or poetic line has arisen from a particular fragrance or an unexpected sound. Suddenly I'm transported to a heightened sense of awareness or become aware of a potent memory which in turn leads to a poem. Touch and taste play less of a role with my creative process yet I am aware that images involving touch reoccur regularly in my writing. Visual artists, dancers, actors, musicians would likely share some of the same sources of inspiration but may also contrast sharply in other areas.
Secondary Inspiration arises when we are moved by the creative intent within a work of art, not our own. We may be in an art gallery or a library and the instant we see a painting or read a particular story or poem we feel we have been given something that we must in turn share with the world. Writers read, painters look at paintings, dancers study choreography and so on. While artists are compelled to learn more about their art form, it is also natural to be inspired by other artists. As a writer I am inspired by writers in all genras and I am equally inspired by the works of painters, musicians, dancers, in fact most art forms. If we want to understand the the transformative nature inspiration plays in our lives we must live by the declaration: I will take inspiration from where I find it.
What is an inspiration tune-up?
Does inspiration just happen, do we have any control at all over how, when and where it arrives? Perhaps not but we can become more sensitive to what specific conditions bring our inspired impulses to the forefront.
Try this: for one week keep a small notepad with you at all times. Make a running list of inspired ideas as they arise as well as the time, location and experience that triggered the ideas. Were you in the shower, on a walk, waking up or falling to sleep, waiting in line a Tim Horton’s? At the end of each day review the list looking for connections between the experience and the ideas themselves. Do you always get an idea for a painting or a poem when you get up early and eat breakfast alone? Maybe this is because as a child this alone-time allowed you to write and illustrate your own stories. Over the course of your tune up week you will find that certain experiences fall into the category of "primary inspiration". As you become more attuned to these experiences take time each day to cherish these moments. Don't be discouraged when ideas don't come, just relax in the knowledge that inspiration is on the way and you will be ready to act when the time comes.