Thursday, April 16, 2015

Inspiration Lurks Around Every Artwork

Currently Reading: Poems by C. S. Lewis
                               Even This I Get to Experience by Norman Lear
                               The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud

Currently Writing: Poem-a-Day challenge for National Poetry Month
                              draft 3 of Merlin Book 1 (previously SOMEDAY)

Where does inspiration come from?

I mean, of course, where does the inspiration for art (whether written, musical, or visual) originate? As a Christian, I believe that all inspiration ultimately comes from God. As Creator of the universe, He is the source of creativity and therefore its muse. That isn't to say that I think all art is God-breathed in the way Scripture is, but I expect it's a difference of degree rather than type. Tolkien called human subcreators because we make things, from tools to worlds, within the world in which we were created precisely because we're made in the image of the Creator. No matter the final product, the involvement of God in all art has to be there, even if it's only in the making of the artist in His creating image; this is just another example of what might be called common grace.

All of that aside, I want to ruminate on the "lower" sources of inspiration, the closer things and people that cause us to write or draw or film or compose. I don't doubt that these sources of inspiration are placed where and when they are by God, but their source isn’t my main concern. It's the variety and impact of these sources of inspiration that's been weighing on me the last few days.

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S.A. and as a way to be creative and celebrate that simultaneously, a friend of mine embarked on a challenge to write a poem every day in April. I was inspired by her decision, and decided to do the same. (I've been fairly successful so far, from my view; I've only missed one day and have written complete poems on all but one of the days I've written.) So that's one source of inspiration: other people. As a fiction writer, this is probably the widest, most available, and most common source of inspiration for me. Other people lend themselves so easily to becoming characters in fiction because they are so often characters in real life, and all I have to do sometimes is take someone I know and stick them in a story to see where they'll take it.

Another source of inspiration I've noticed more this month is the art of others. In order to keep my mind in poetry for the poem-a-day challenge, I've been reading C. S. Lewis' Poems. I've been interested in reading Lewis' poetry ever since I read Michael Ward's Planet Narnia, which uses Lewis' poetry as part of its overall argument about the seven medieval heavens in Lewis' imagination. There have been at least three or four days this month when I have taken a line or subject from my previous night's reading in Lewis and churned out my own poem. One night, I read a ballade; the next day, I wrote one. The same with an epithalamium. Tonight, I'm hoping to borrow Lewis' meter and rhyme from "The Salamander" for my poem, but it isn't just Lewis I've borrowed from. I've found Shakespeare and other writers filtering into my poetry as well.

The inspiration that comes from others' art isn't limited to the written word, either. My Merlin novels were partially inspired by films I'd seen featuring Merlin, namely Disney's The Sword in the Stone and the Hallmark miniseries Merlin. The list of potential sources of inspiration can go on forever, since the ultimate source of inspiration is Himself eternal.

What inspires you? Do you look to other people, to art, to nature, or elsewhere when you don't know what to write or draw? Does listening to music aid your composition or hinder it? What's the best source you have found to get your creativity moving?


  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, Eli! I relate to finding inspiration in other people. Recently, I've been more intentional about drawing traits for characters from people I know (with subtlety! :P ) and I find that my characters live and breathe and are more dynamic.

    I think one's own art can stagnate if not complemented with practice in or at the very least appreciation for another form of art. Music and visual art are big sources of inspiration for me: if I am having trouble writing, I'll try play piano or look an art book. Knitting, as well. I feel like because writing is so theoretical and mind-occupying, it can help to do something hands on like gardening or something visual like drawing in order to keep creativity from being one dimensional. Strangely, also, I find that the semesters of school that I take math and science courses in conjunction with writing have been by far my most creatively productive rather than those where I was only taking English classes/humanities. So... I guess calculus and chemistry are a strange, painful sources of inspiration. :P

    1. Thanks, Stuti!

      I've found much the same thing when drawing traits from other people. There are several characters in my Merlin book who are based on real people in a very basic sense, and they are much easier to write than those I've just invented with very little real-life inspiration.

      Knitting (and other crafty hobbies) are very good for my creativity as well. I usually find that autumn brings a creative urge, not only for my writing, but for my yarnwork as well.

      "I guess calculus and chemistry are a strange, painful sources of inspiration."
      ^^ That's going in the book of writerly quotes, don't ya know. ;)


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