I is for Inspiration

| March 4, 2014

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration, particularly as it relates to writing. Inspiration itself almost becomes more of an experience than an object. When we feel inspired, the “light bulb” idea to create can either come seemingly out of the blue or based off of anything we see, hear, read, feel, or sense in any way. However, this light bulb seems to create a felt experience that makes for almost a compulsion to act on that inspiration in one way or another (often, for me, by expressing it through written or typed language).

But what about when we are not inspired? For anyone, but especially students who may not be confident writers or who even dislike writing, I think we can agree that being forced to write without a clear sense of purpose, without that electromagnetic buzz of inspiration in our bodies, can be an extremely unpleasant task. It seems that for many the experience of writing also needs the experience of inspiration in order to feel worthwhile or successful. As Manning mentions, we need some sort of incipient thought before the movement of writing can take place.

We go so far as to attempt to replicate or force an experience of inspiration when none naturally occurs. There are an incredible number of resources for those experiencing writer’s block (which, according to this HuffPost entry is the very lack of inspiration), or for those who just plain don’t know what to write about. For students in particular, we often provide prompts or model texts. We can also read quotes, looks at films, listen to music, or present photos or artwork that might somehow jog that light bulb switch somewhere in our brains to flip. In the sense of imitation or ideas based from another text (be it written, visual, or auditory), inspiration almost stems from a type of aesthetic experience itself. When this doesn’t naturally occur, we try to force ourselves to fabricate it. I wonder if there is a difference, though, between naturally occurring inspiration experiences and those we create for ourselves? For me, I feel that the naturally occurring ones often feel more authentic and make for a more positive writing experience, even if created ones still can create a desired written outcome.

The bigger question may be, do we even need to feel inspired to write well? Occasionally, it seems like writing becomes the experience of language itself, and simply putting words down inspires (in a very minor way) more words to flow. This is one reason why writing fluency, and simply practicing every day even when not inspired, can continue to improve writing skills for students. Freewriting, something I’ve posted about before, is one way of encouraging the experience and practice of writing without necessarily the experience of inspiration. Even for this post, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to talk about and wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. However, the more I typed, the more the ideas flowed. Perhaps by acknowledging the separation of the two tasks for students and writers of all kinds, and by minimizing the outcome or the potential value of the written product that is being created, writing without inspiration doesn’t have to be quite the chore it somehow becomes.