Last writing, I spoke about the discipline of being able to ‘show up and get on with work’ and in that process drawing on experience/memories and research/experimentation. Now, I want to delve into that difficult to pin down concept of ‘being inspired’.
I firmly believe that inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to go beyond our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person to see possibilities, and even transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities. Inspiration is often downplayed and may even be overlooked because of its elusive nature. Its history of being treated as supernatural or divine in a negative way hasn’t helped people’s awareness of its potential.
At one stage, I used to think that being inspired was about sitting around waiting for ideas to come to you. That can happen occasionally: I can be walking down the street and suddenly hear a fragment of music that triggers a thought pattern, or standing in a relaxing shower and an idea goes ‘twang’. But generally, it’s not like that at all. I sometimes liken the process to seeing spectres: the ideas are always there, half-formed. But that half-formed idea amounts to nothing on a regular basis unless it is coupled with a deliberate mixing of technique and discipline.
George Frideric Handel was a German musician and composer. The rulers of England paid him to compose music for celebrations, musical productions and worship. One of Handel’s most famous works, Messiah, is about the life of Christ and includes an orchestra, choir and solos. Handel wrote Messiah in just 24 days during the summer of 1741, alone in a room. A servant overheard Handel say, “I did think I did see all heaven before me and the great God himself.” When we hear the “Hallelujah Chorus,” we can also feel like we’re getting a glimpse of heaven. He was truly inspired.
One of my biggest sources of inspiration is nature. When we experience a beautiful view, watch animals or hike a bush track, it inspires. The creative part of our brains gets turbo-charged in God’s creation. The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch painted The Scream in 1893. In describing his inspiration for the painting, he is reported to have written in his diary: “I was walking along the road with two friends. The sun was setting. I felt a breath of melancholy – Suddenly the sky turned blood-red. I stopped, and leaned against the railing, deathly tired – Looking out across the flaming clouds that hung like blood and a sword over the blue-black fjord and town. My friends walked on – I stood there, trembling with fear. And I sensed a great, infinite scream pass through nature.
Today, I now view inspiration and effort not as an incompatible mix of oil and water but as essential components of the creative process – they are bricks and mortar.