I’ve been having to think a lot, recently, about inspiration; about the different kinds of inspiration, about those little moments, those sparks, that stay with you and grow into something else entirely. I hear it a lot at work, when I’m reading an article about “Great Ways To Keep Your Blogs Unique!” and all that kind of crap – inspiration makes an appearance almost everywhere in the content marketing world, and I still find it revolting.
It seems that, out of all the thousands of articles I’ve read in my day-to-day life as a copywriter, everyone seems to be taking inspiration from brands, from still-shot images, from things their children said over breakfast. Well, I don’t find things like pictures all that inspiring, with a few obvious exceptions; just as I don’t find beautifully presented quotes about enduring, struggling on, or working hard all that inspiring either.
There have been a few examples of literary fiction providing me with some inspiration in the past, but I’d certainly say that most of my inspiration, however weak and substandard that inspiration might be, comes from seeing things, comes from my day to day life – not as a copywriter, but as me.
What Is Inspiration?
I’ve heard inspiration described most commonly as a flash, or a spark – even I used the idiom a moment ago – and for many people I see that that is the kind moment they’ll count as inspiring. The epiphany, or realisation, of a certain aspect of the world which then goes on to act as the driving force for some creative action.
Inspiration, then, is an action or thought which encourages change, action, thought, creativity – personal evolution. Everyone gets inspired now and again. Some of us, like the late Thin White Duke, seemed to be inspired by anything and everything, or seemed to have this ingrained sense of creativity which made inspiration unnecessary.
Mainly, thanks to the immediacy of the modern world and the sheer spontaneity of social media and the internet, it is easier than ever to be inspired. Anything, from a quote against a beautiful picture to a song, a work of art or even just a photograph of something you’ve never seen before, can be inspiring.
What Are The Problems With Inspiration?
Now, I’ve heard of people being inspired by social media, conversations and a whole heap of other stuff, but it’s incredibly rare, in my experience, to actually see anything develop out of this inspiration. The culture of inspiration that reigns supreme over a great deal of modern creativity seems, to me, to be more harmful than it actually is beneficial. For example, modern inspiration:
- Makes Us Complacent – If we’re so easily inspired by something on social media or over the internet, and it’s real inspiration, then it’s like firecrackers down the spine. We can be so easily and quickly inspired that we expect to find inspiration in the same old places, which ends up not being inspiration.
Or, perhaps it is inspiration, but it is not the kind of inspiration that we desire, because it’s an experience that we’ve already had. If you’re going to regularly find yourself inspired by, say, a Nietzsche quote or something that Thoreau once said, then you’re never going to move beyond that.
Inspiring stuff tends to lodge itself in your mind; it tends to make this big black void of consciousness and it sucks everything else into it and you aren’t open to new inspiration anymore, because you’re already inspired, already pre-occupied with what someone else thought, or said, or did.
- Dies – Thankfully, inspiration dies. This opens up your mind to new inspiration, allows you to actually grow as both a person and a creative. Unfortunately, in my experience, the inspiration that I picked up quickly doesn’t tend to last very long. I’ve got a dozen different pieces of writing sitting on my desktop, all fired by different forms of inspiration, and I don’t think I’ll ever finish them.
The inspiration behind them has gone, vanished into the ether, curled into a ball and I can look back, dispassionately, and criticise the inspiration. I can see where it fails, why I found it inspiring in the first place and it dies.
- Doesn’t Build On Itself – Now, because things are so instant, because we’re inspired by the slightest quote on a social profile, when we’re inspired that’s it – it’s over. Without time to develop, to sit in your mind like a leaden weight as the waters of your thought wash against and around it, you’ll never go beyond it.
Spontaneity and instantaneousness are fantastic for a range of things; not for achieving inspiration in the long-term.
The Modern-Day Industry Of Inspiration
Okay, so that might be a little over the top, but a lot of the time it does feel like inspiration is a business; people pose against sunsets and hold hands in cornfields and are recorded as having these perfect lives and they howl out the message that “Oh, if only you could be here too, think how much better that would be! Look at how our lives are better than yours! (Oh, and while you’re here, if you could also give us your PayPal info, that’d be great)”. I mean, look at the image below – I don’t think it’s anywhere near as enjoyable as the full piece of writing; I tried this with a lot of my Fragments category, and I very, very quickly came to hate it.
That’s one of the major reasons that, as far as I can see, the spark of inspiration is becoming less and less useful for creativity. I tend to prefer the kind of inspiration that smoulders, that sits at the back of your head and drives you forward; those song lyrics that just don’t leave you, that piece of graffiti that no one can be bothered to clear up.
Your inspiration doesn’t need to be unique to you, of course it doesn’t! But there’s a difference between an entire poem, or song, or even a piece of artwork, and a self-contained image amongst thousands of others on a Facebook Feed with a few words standing out.
What Is Personal Inspiration?
My advice then, if we pretend for a moment that I’m any kind of authority on, well, anything, is that you need to find your own inspiration around you. Don’t go looking for it, don’t go chasing inspiration across the world, don’t look for epiphanies in African sunsets, American cities or British countryside – live your life as you want, as you need to, and let your life be your inspiration.
If you’re miserable, if you hate where you come from, let that inspire you. If you’re in love, or someone loves you, let that be inspiring. Create what you know, through your own filter, because nobody’s filter will be the same as yours.
In the end, take inspiration from fuckin’ everywhere and everything, cos’ what else is there, really?
Anyway, thanks for reading.
Just a quick reminder, everything on the left (under the Things I’ve Written title) is completely free and they’re probably going to stay that way. So, you know, if you’re looking for something to read, maybe give them a try, or not, of course.