Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Is “inspiration” necessary for someone to be creative?

Here, when I say inspiration, I’m talking about the mythical, romantic notion of what inspiration is. In this mythical world, inspiration usually is random, coincidental, and unexpected. It seemingly comes from nowhere. When people decide to look for inspiration, their gaze is indiscriminate, taking in everything and nothing in particular, with no frame of reference, hoping something will jump out at them.

The problem with living in this world is that when inspiration is lacking, nothing is produced.

It’s nice to receive a jolt of inspiration, which does happen from time to time. But in order to be consistent, we must actively generate our own leads and let these become our inspiration. If we use prompts to help us–such as using music to paint by or visual art to spur a piece of writing—it’s ok to use them consciously, purposefully, and without shame.

Sometimes thoughts come to me spontaneously and I just have to sit down and write them out. But more often than not, I first have make a conscious decision to write and then have a clear objective in mind, such as a particular topic–love loss, being a woman, the nature of creativity, anger, joy.

Sometimes the form of writing is my starting point (a blog post, a story, a poem, etc). Very often, when I write poetry, the type of poem I write—such as haiku or free verse, or whether or not it will rhyme–influences the subject matter. Sometimes the subject matter influences the form.

I have also used writing prompts and have been surprised at how individualized the resulting poems have turned out to be.  What I have learned is that regardless of the origin, I can’t help but bring something unique to my work that no one else could. Creativity comes from within, not from without.

The biggest inspiration we have is whoever we are as individuals. We don’t have to look far for that kind of inspiration because it never leaves us.

(A version of this piece originally appeared on the website of Shannon Grissom as a guest post. This post was featured in the December 11, 2011 Carnival of Creativity.)


Comments on: "What is the True Nature of Inspiration?" (29)

  1. I am a prompt whore! There…it is stated, and I feel good about it. THINGS inspire me to write, to create. Staring at the blank “piece of paper” is just that. Some THING gets my mind rolling along.

    Great post Adrienne. Shared it around

  2. Well, Thomas Edison said that “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”, right? I am sure that applies to writing and anything else just as much as to inventions. Also, I remember that Madeleine L’engle (whose work I love) wrote that she sat down every day to write. Sometimes, that daily writing led to nothing work keeping. She threw it all out, but she considered it her, “five finger exercises” and said that they kept her disciplined and ready. Sometimes what she wrote in those daily sessions turned out to be….inspired.

    • I so agree. Probably the worst killer of creativity is the notion that every output has to be perfect or even good. Many things can be bettered with the hard work of revision, and some things may never be worthy of sharing with the public. Sometimes the failed experiment is indeed practice for creating something really special the next time out!

  3. I used art as prompts when I was starting. I’d write whatever came from mind. Eventually, an idea caught and kept me busy for a long time. Now I keep an idea journal, when I run across things I find interesting, etc …

  4. Rearranging a process does it for me. In order to get to C why do I have to follow, sequentially, A then B. Why not start with, hey, D?

    This post well put.

  5. Like your blog, sometimes you have to start working inorder to be inspired. I do believe the most important thing is show up and hope the muse is there to great us.

  6. Love your writing, currently reading your ebook of poetry and I’m learning heaps by reading your work. I’m constantly running out of inspiration, but it comes back eventually.

  7. I so agree with you. Especially with my poems, only spontaneity works for me. The moment the thought form in my mind, I have to scribble it down on paper or my comp.


  8. DITTO! I write to prompts, ideas pop in my head, or I go looking for something when I want fresh. Looking for me means a few miles around the neighborhood. I am an urban walker and love the quiet in my head when I walk. I am never sure what I will find when I start writing, regardless of how i start (prompt, new idea, from walking). I may have an idea after the first sentence but where I end up… no idea.

    • Yes! That the exciting part is discovering where you can go next from the initial idea. I can’t tell you how many times I have been totally astonished by how my piece ended up in a direction I had no idea it would go.

  9. I enjoyed this post Adrienne, I enjoy writing prompts or group writing compilations. But for the most part I think my inspiration just pops out of no where.

  10. I like your blog Adrienne…this is a great topic! I find “prompts” popping up in real life (out of nowhere ..as well),…and you are so right ..that perfection can kill the flow of “prompts”

    Here is a recent prompt which I am sure could go many directions…some things feel like signs from the universe…

    I was working to untangle my car keys..from my platinum blue halloween wig…working, working..on the sidewalk, while less than 3 feet away…a homeless man was greeting a trick or treating family in a very friendly and warm way, and giving out halloween chocolate to the family’s privileged youth…

    That moment just hung in the air and said…..”what do you see?”

    Thanks for the post and I look forward to following your blog 🙂

  11. Penelope J. said:

    Adrienne, this post inspired me to half an hour pondering about inspiration and its effects on my life. I can relate to a lot of what you said about creative inspiration.

    Jolts of inspiration in writing can be so fleeting that I must be ready to drop everything and write down the thought, idea, line, that one thing that came to me like a sudden vision, before it disappears.

    Or inspiration is the motivating force that drives me on to achieve my goals or to finish that book or to accomplish what I set out to do.

    Inspiration has changed my life, turned that “possibly” and “maybe” into something real and valuable.

    I’m sure that many others can say the same.

  12. You reminded me of something I once read. This is that many people employ personal experiences as the basis of their inspiration, but these experiences are finite. When they exhaust these experiences they are unable to be inspired to write. This happened to the writer Herman Melville whose books, like Moby Dick, were based on his maritime trips along the South Seas. I am creative and I come up with new things when I write but I have noticed that I am also including my life experiences in my writing. I wonder what will happen to me when I run out!

  13. Your article was featured in the Carnival of Creativity at http://www.thewritingreader.com/blog/2011/12/11/the-carnival-of-creativity-december-11-2011/ Thanks for submitting!

  14. With eyes open, and a mind that is paying attention (the way they always told us to do in school), we can find inspiration anywhere. We can read a good book or article (or blog post) that may stir our creative juices; or see a film that resonates and touches the core of our being; or experience something in nature that triggers a response… all things, if given a chance, can inspire!
    Thank you Adriene for being one such inspiration!

  15. […] (AD) Joyce presents What is the True Nature of Inspiration? posted at Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World. She asks the question, “How much more […]

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