In our Fridays with Friends series over the last several months, we asked more than a dozen artists of various disciplines about their sources of inspiration. Responses were many and varied, including such diverse muses as Bach, Bob Dylan, boredom, exercise, reading, utter silence, and various other forms of chaotic stimulation.
I got to thinking about this in terms of my own sources of inspiration. More specifically, I asked myself, “What inspires me to sit down and write?”
Once I cleared away the fog of feeling often associated with the word “inspiration,” I realized for me it comes down to need. I wish I could say I write from an overflow of gratitude and goodness from my soul. It’s more like I write to close the gap between desire and reality.
I write poetry often when I am at the end of my mental rope. I have more things I need to say, yet have run out of a logical, sequential way of saying them. Poetry is my emotional safety net, my go-to place when I’ve run out of meaningful options. I came to this point a few days ago when I wrote this:
thoughts like hummingbirds
in and around the rails
clinging to this thin string
of meaning: poetry
I also write when I feel the need to accomplish something, to point to something (anything!) and say, “Look, there. I did that.” (It’s pretty much why I am sitting here now and writing this piece.) I suppose it’s a quirky wiring that is telling me I must always (Every. Single. Day.) create something new.
Other reasons (all need-based) I write:
- Because I’m not a painter, potter, or other sort of visual artist, and I still need to make stuff.
- As a way to cleanse toxins from my system.
- To create a meaningful connection between my mind and at least one other person’s mind.
- To remind myself of who I am.
- To remind others of who I am.
- To remind others of who they are (or can be).
- To relive a particularly note-worthy moment.
- In order to notice things.
- Because I need a fix… I write to breathe. (Seriously. If I don’t write regularly, I feel a choking sensation in my throat. Yeah, I know. Pathetic. Sounds like an addiction.)
My husband and I were talking recently about the writing of poetry, and what makes a poet. While we both felt practice and desire were critical, I was leaning toward the “anyone can write poetry if they want to,” and he was arguing more for the need of a gifting or raw talent for poetry. As he put it, “You have a gift, a way of seeing the world. You can’t teach that. I can write a few lines, but you are a poet.”
Which, I admit, was nice to hear. But it also made me think more about this inspiration thing. This “gift” as he calls it is the need I’ve been talking about: poetry as safety net, as breath, as way of life, as a fix.
I am at loose ends if I’m not writing, about to go off the rails.
No, I’m not a tortured artist. Apparently I’m a poet with a gift for seeing the world in a certain way. And that gift creates a need to show what I’ve seen through words. That need is my inspiration – not what I would perceive as “inspirational” to anyone else, but it drives me.
It surely drives me. And now that I’ve arrived, I am done.
Got my fix.