What is inspiration?

There is a question that has been coming to my mind for the last couples of days, a question I’ve been desperately trying to find an answer to: what is inspiration? I could now hunt down all of the clichés that have been written down over the last centuries, and conclude that inspiration is a kiss of a muse – or something similar. But that wouldn’t be an honest answer to my question. Yes, I do have what I could refer to as muses, yet this is not steadily bound to a certain person or thing. Life is perhaps the most fitting expression to describe my muse: it can be people who inspire me, experiences, things I’ve seen or just an impression or a feeling. Sometimes, it’s my subconsciousness that inspires me either by hitting me with an irrational déjà-vu feeling or a dream.

So is inspiration nothing more than an impression or something alike that leads my imagination to create worlds that never have nor will ever exist? I once read that the most stunning capacity of a human being, the ability that distinguishes us from any other being on this planet, is the incredible power to think in conditional and create images in his mind; pictures, people, situations that never existed. But then again, if we all have this ability, why aren’t we all inspired, if not permanently, than at least often? I have days when I’m sitting over a blank piece of paper, wanting to write so badly that my fingers hurt, but I just can’t get into it. There is no conditional, no idea, no imagination, just pure void. In a sense, this might be what drives me on and on, to sometimes having to bear this feeling of blankness: it makes the moments of inspiration even more enjoyable.

Sometimes, inspiration even inspires itself. This weekend I wrote a poem, Serendipity, and after having written ten lines, I suddenly came to a line that instantly created a totally different version of the poem in my mind – in fact, the only line being the same was that tenth line. Was the first version bad? Perhaps, perhaps not, but after that line had hit me, it just didn’t feel right anymore to leave the poem the way it was. Does that mean inspiration leaves us no choice? Do we have to create what a muse tells us to? In a certain way, yes, we do. Trying to ignore it, or sometimes being forced to ignore it because I’m unable to write the ideas down, psychically and, most surprising perhaps, physically hurts: the fingers feel as if they were burning and after a certain time, it gets unbearable to move them. Although the fingers might hurt and you lose concentration on what you should be doing, at the same time your body’s self-recompense system puts you into a thrill of anticipation and you can continuously picture yourself finally writing the text down – and in that vision, you have the wonderful feeling of your fingers not hurting anymore. It may sound cruel what nature is doing to us, but is it not crucial that inspiration forces us to create? Isn’t it linked to our instinct of survival? We have to create in order to evolve and survive as a species. Nature seems to have decided that we have to be forced to create or we might just die out, and it is doing everything possible to prevent such a thing.

Apparently, inspiration is also linked to mental illnesses: creative people are twenty times more often depressed than other people (lyricists verifiably are most affected) and as often as not express a strong thanatos. British researchers for example claim that schizophrenia has an evolutional advantage or it would have long died out: in fact, patients of this disease often have a strong inclination towards pictorial arts. Affliction seems to provoke a great inspiration, perhaps it is the mind’s desperate effort to find back the mental balance by channeling the suffering on art and letting it out.

I’m on the edge of walking astray, so back to my initial question: what is inspiration? It is taking a pen and writing without knowing where your hand is taking you to, it is a story you create the moment you write it, it is a moment of insight – an epiphany if you want -, it is a state between consciousness and sleep where you still catch the essence of the moment, it is silence that sings, words that laugh and cry, it is life. Where can you get it? Nowhere and everywhere. I’ve realised that looking for inspiration will not do the job, concentration will only be of aid when you try to put your ideas into order, but it will certainly not help in getting you anywhere close an idea. Can I hold it once it’s there? No, the harder you try, the further and faster it slips away. Inspiration is love. You can’t provoke it by any means, it just appears out of nowhere, takes your hand and leads you a short step of your journey and then, as fast as it appeared, it fades. It might be sad, but isn’t it the knowledge of its existence alone enough to keep holding on? Somewhere, at some point, we meet it again, and because we went through the hard times, we can appreciate it even more. Perhaps, inspiration is a ship, for a certain time it is docked in our harbour and enriches our world with ideas and then suddenly, without any prior notice, it has to leave. We’re standing there, waving goodbye and in our heart feel the quiet hope that someday the ship will come back, and a muse will be knocking on our door.

Inspiration is not a goal, it is the way. Where does the way lead to? That is only known to the inspiration that guides us. If it is bad or wonderful, sad or enjoyable, if inspiration’s there or not, one thing in the end can never be doubted: life pushes us forward, no matter if we want to or not, and holding on only accelerates the motion following.

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