Monday, February 9, 2009


in·spi·ra·tion (nsp-rshn) Definition from the free online dictionary.
1.a. Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
b. The condition of being so stimulated.
2. An agency, such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention.
3. Something, such as a sudden creative act or idea, that is inspired.
4. The quality of inspiring or exalting: a painting full of inspiration.
5. Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the mind and soul of humankind.
6. The act of drawing in, especially the inhalation of air into the lungs.

We had a lively discussion at our writers group recently about inspiration. I dislike the use of the word to denote sudden almost heaven-sent "creative" ideas popping in to the writer's mind from nowhere. I prefer the idea of the writer always on the prowl for subject matter whether this be words, pictures, remarks. In the end I don't think we are arguing about what happens only about how we describe what happens.

I do think it is important though because the common interpretation of inspiration stresses the passivity of the writer, waiting blankly on the couch for the inspiration to strike. I prefer the active idea of the writer on the prowl for ideas and subject matter.

At his drama workshop last Saturday in Cavan John McArdle started by asking each of us to write a random line of dialogue, no prompt no theme. We read them then and he wrote then in order on the chart. We were not allowed to change them or their order and spent a while making sense of them. At the end of the session we had the basis of a play. Each of us brought it in a different direction but all were based on the same few first lines. The point here as regards inspiration is that from the most unpromising random material great writing can emerge.

The first four lines were:
A big mug of wee wee
Well what has happened here
I really enjoyed that funeral (Mine, I had been at a funeral the previous day)
I wouldn't have done it quite like that

Picture (by Paddy Smith) of myself and John McArdle last Saturday.

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