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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Inspiration and Futility, Alternating Between the Poles

Part II.

Brenda Ueland says this about inspiration:

“Inspiration does not (in fact) come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving but it comes to us slowly and quietly all of the time. But we must regularly and every day give it a chance to start flowing, and prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that when writing you should not feel like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.[1]

It may appear that Brenda has said something different or contradictory to what I said about inspiration in part I of this essay, but she and I are not necessarily speaking to divergent ends.

I have talked about the power of inspiration as a force, about its flash and dynamism. Brenda says that inspiration it is not that. I have been talking about the beginning of inspiration, she is talking about what comes after the inspired moment.

Brenda is talking about living with inspiration, about the inspired life that comes after the vision, she is talking about the falling rain, after the thunder claps and the clouds burst.

What Brenda is talking about is the more important part of inspiration. The inspired moment may fill us with vision and give us purpose, but nobody (nobody that I know of) can live out their lives in that ecstatic state.

Inspiration is like electricity. There is so much power in it. To stay in the inspired moment forever would burn us up.

The key to living with inspiration, to carrying out the inspired vision we have received, is to regulate that power. We regulate it through habit, ritual and disciplined work, like stringing beads together in kindergarten, Brenda says we must allow for some downtime, in order to give our circuitry a break.

Having space, being quiet, experiencing emptiness, these are essential for cultivating inspiration.

Doris Lessing, says in her Nobel acceptance speech[2]: “Have you found that space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write? Into that space, which is a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas—inspiration.”

Like Brenda Ueland, Doris Lessing is talking more about the care for, and the nurturing of, the creative-will within us, what I would call the expression of inspiration and the cultivation of its content. This is something that should be differentiated from the inspired moment itself.




[1] Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit: p. 47, BN publishing, 2008
[2] Doris Lessing, Acceptance Speech, Nobel Prize for Literature, 2007.

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