Who’d have thought there were so many definitions of inspiration? Easy to forget (if you ever knew it) that amongst other things it’s the opposite of expiration. And expiration takes us down the road of expire and all the different connotations there. Before you know it, you’re considering vehicle licensing, breathing out and death, the final exhalation. So inspiration is itself an inspiration, but if you like words it’s not difficult to find one that inspires.
Words, especially seductive intriguing words, words strung together into stories that carry you into landscapes and emotions you couldn’t even dream of, words can also be the very opposite of inspiring (which is not expiring, although it should be). There have been times when outstanding, original and well crafted words have made me despair of writing well enough myself for anyone to bother reading. The heights of literary achievement might still be unattainable, but eventually I realised I might still have something worth writing. In its own way this was an inspirational, even liberating, moment, triggered by reading Philip Pullman’s tour de force His Dark Materials.
By complete contrast the latest inspirational moment came to me in the form of a Christmas gift: a book, thoughtfully chosen by one of my children, and given with love. The special thing about this book? It was wordless. Stamped upon its cover is the single word Journal – a word with its own resonance – but not a single word did it contain. Blank page followed blank page, all full of potential, all waiting for words. To accompany this delight? A pen of course, a good refillable Parker that feels right in the hand. Inspirational.
Even the most prolific, the most talented must need their inspirational moments. It doesn’t take words to inspire a writer, nor music to energise a musician, it can be anything at all, a look, a trick of the light, an overheard snippet of conversation. Occasionally some chance reference lets us marvel at other talents, wonder at what inspires them. Treasures of The Bodleian (see jaw-dropping) certainly did that on the grand scale, but more recently a friend mentioned the work of an individual artist who was completely unknown to me. Canadian Guy Laramee is a unique multi-faceted talent, so much so that his words and images set my mind racing. The web view gives a tantalising insight but I want to see his work up close and in the flesh, I want to tap into that source and feel close to it. Whatever inspires his work, it has become inspirational in its own right.
When as writers or composers or artists we stumble and stare at the blank sheet, when we doubt our ability, question the presence of any skill at all, we easily forget one thing: it is not always (or even often) that our finished work will inspire another fertile mind, but the very act of making our art can inspire others to explore their own talents.
Writing this and posting it on the last day of the year is a reminder that the very date itself can be an inspiration. All those New Year resolutions are all inspired by the simple click of one day turning to the next. Perhaps it’s the idea of leaving behind old thoughts and worn out themes, perhaps it’s the prospect of the new, the unsullied, the empty days ahead waiting to be filled with fine words, thrilling music or vibrant art.
Which takes us back to the blank pages of the Journal and the inspiration to start filling them.