When I was a teenager, I wrote a poem for my then church magazine. I was actually asked to write it – to write a poem about a church outing. We’d been to a lake, so I wrote a poem about the lake. I took my time, scribbled my stanzas, made corrections, tried to create flow.
Someone remarked upon it when it was printed and asked what had led me to write it. I replied – someone had suggested I wrote it. He raised his eyebrows. “Oh,” he said. “Nothing to do with inspiration, then.”
At the time, I felt rather floored by this. I was bemused – was he teasing me, or was he genuinely being disparaging? I still don’t know, but it wouldn’t floor me now.
Since when does inspiration preclude hard work – or vice versa? What’s wrong with sitting down to write something because you’ve been asked to? Come to think of it, it’s what poet laureates do all the time. Write a poem for this or that occasion. Would this, too, lead to raised eyebrows and a ‘nothing to with inspiration, then?’
I know we have our platitudes – 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, etc. I have to confess I find these clichéd phrases rather – dare I say it – uninspiring. To me, there is an organic, dynamic relationship between the two. Often I have to sit down and start writing with zero inspiration. But like any train of thought, new triggers arise and I find that through the act of sitting down I am, in some way, inspired. Of course there are days when I have to push the words out of me. Days I feel dull. But the crafting that takes place even within these ‘uninspired’ moments can create something that I re-read later and realise – actually, that’s not so bad – and ‘inspires’ me to think further on the subject.
What do we mean when we say ‘inspiration’? Is it just a bolt from the blue? A something where there was nothing? Isn’t everything made of triggers and links and trains of thought colliding, building on something we already know and infusing it with something new?
No, I wasn’t necessarily ‘inspired’ to write this. But does that mean it cannot be inspiring?
(Audio version shared via podbean.com – forgive my hesitant voice I am not practised at this yet!)