Where does inspiration come from? How do we become inspired? What does it mean to be a creative person?
I’ve been thinking about all of these questions lately. As I look back on how I’ve developed as a writer and as a human being, I think that inspiration has to do with how you interact with the world and your level of receptiveness to outside forces. It is something in the world around you that you tune into and not everyone cares to do it. Or maybe they can’t? I don’t know since I’ve never lived in anyone’s head but my own! But I have always felt different from other people, at least other people who aren’t artists of some kind or writers.
Even dreams, which occur in the self, but are not under self-control, are expressed as being “given” to us in a way (we know the science of this now, of course which explains it differently). And this matches the pattern of belief of our predecessors. Some ancient cultures, like the Ancient Greeks, believed that inspiration was a particular being that granted you the gift of beautiful, creative, artistic thoughts. Muses, as we know them, were thought to bring inspiration to us.
I received an interview question from my department at work once that asked “What inspires you?” My answer: I’m inspired by everything around me. Nature. Beautiful words. Alliteration. Unexpected turns of phrase. Song. And it’s true. When I look at the world, I see possibility. I allow the world to show me things from a new perspective. I wait for it and I crave it, because it doesn’t happen all the time or all at once.
My mind is usually spinning on something, though I don’t really know how to explain the how or why to someone who doesn’t pursue a creative art. Honestly, just as they wonder about the things going on in my head, I wonder about the things going on in theirs! What do THEY think about all day?
The coolest part of inspiration though? Well, that’s easy. It’s when it hits you out of nowhere. Sometimes I’m more tuned in to things than at other moments. Like the other day. It was 6:30 a.m. and I was on my way to work. That morning, my mind was clicking on all cylinders. While also being a careful driver, I just let the thoughts flow. I both hate and love this because if and when something hits, I can’t stop immediately and write it down. Then I spend the rest of my drive trying not to forget the words that popped into my head.
Though I should have been thinking about my current work in progress, NightWind, lately my thoughts have been turning to my next project, a short novel titled Into the Sweetbitter Sea. It’s a book I’ve been wanting to write since college about the ancient Greek lyric poet, Sappho; and now that my confidence level is in a good place, I feel like I know how to execute this story on the level I’ve been dreaming of.
Anyway…I was thinking about the rising sun and daylight and then my thoughts honed in on the song that was playing: Wicked Game by Theory of a Deadman (video embedded below).
For some reason, this song makes my head buzz like crazy and I know that it will be an anthem behind my next project. The lyrics and the sound of the music together just pierced me. I started thinking about love and unrequited love and then the perfect sentence came to mind: Sappho fell in love like flowers fall for the sun, tilting their chins up for one more kiss of light.
I’ve never really had a playlist that is used as inspiration for a story, though on occasion, a song will pique my interest like Wicked Game did and seem to represent my project well. You can read a little about the songs that helped me get in the right place for The Green Lady here.
Inspiration is all around you. I think you just have to be open to it. I also think that you can train yourself to be open to it. If you follow my blog, perhaps you’ve read about my sensory game that I like to play when I travel. This exercise allows me to work those creative muscles and it becomes a habit. Whatever it is or wherever it comes from, I feel lucky to have it in my life.
What inspires you? How do you get to that creative place? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!