There is no map, no road sign, for finding inspiration. You can travel far and wide to find inspiration, but it still has to come to you. It can’t be chased. It finds you.
I live in the real world. I pay attention. I watch the news, read the newspapers, listen to people in the real world tell their stories, read books. There’s plenty out there to lament if you have even a modicum of empathy. Look at it as fodder for the imagination.
I have a lot of my own struggles to deal with. Crazy stuff happens to me. And, yes, most of those things qualify as first world problems. Sometimes, like most of us, it would be easy to blame myself for my own troubles. This isn’t about trying to fix me. This isn’t about why bad things happen to good people.
This is about inspiration.
About inspiration, I have new insight. You see, when the stuff hits the fan, I still get all the usual emotions, but the sugar coating is I get to use it. Inspiration is how I can turn poop into manure. I tell myself that my misery and disappointment is just so much more material for writing.
If things get really bad, I just tell myself, “This is research, this is research, this is research…” At least I can use my day-to-day struggle to write something.
Remember the Romantic Poets? There were actual revolutions going on in their day. They looked around and said they were “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” They turned struggle into art.
The Romantic Poets “genuinely thought that they were prophetic figures who could interpret reality” and that imagination was a way to transcend the real world (Stephanie Forward). So, for the Romantics, the key wasn’t finding inspiration. They may be known for going on long hikes, but they also liked to make commentary on world events. In both cases, the key was seeing what everybody else was seeing and doing something extraordinary with it. The key was imagination. It was imagination that set them apart.
It is not who we are or what we experience that makes writers and other artists remarkable, it is what we do with the material of life. It takes drive, it takes effort, it takes practice, and it takes work, but writing is an extraordinary act done by otherwise ordinary people. Ordinary people with imagination can turn anything into art.
Inspiration can be as simple as turning lemons into lemonade: taking something unpalatable and making it into something thirst quenching and sweet. And you don’t need to be an alchemist or a magician to do it. You just have to have a little imagination.
I can visualize Thom Yorke or Beyonce or Lily Allen feeling miserable and just taking mental note of the world around them. They struggle like the rest of us. Many of us feel similar feelings. That’s why these artists sell albums; they capture something people can relate to and turn it into something beautiful. It is the artists’ striving to turn those feelings into something creative that sets them apart, not the feelings themselves, not their reality. They turn the worst of what life has to offer into gold fertilizer gold. Out of pain, art. These thoughts and the strain I’m under. I ain’t sorry. It makes me smile.
My job as a writer, then, is not dependent on having unique encounters with the world. My writing need only be an authentic, enticing expression of how I confront the ordinary world. How sweet is that?