Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Inspired Post

**FYI: I'm going all philosophical today. Consider yourself warned, boys and girls.**

I've had a number of conversations about inspiration recently, the nature of it.

Every time I travel people want to know if I'm looking for inspiration.  I always say no, because I'm not going on a cruise to get inspired to write a book about a cruise and I'm not going to go to Paris so I can write a book about lovers locking themselves (metaphorically) to bridges.  The question always seems to conflate research with inspiration, and somehow to both exaggerate and grossly oversimplify.  And it always seemed kind of silly to me.  Because 1) inspiration is EVERYWHERE, even at my desk back home and 2) you don't go looking for inspiration.  It finds you.

But what if I'm not giving my questioners enough credit?  What if they are really asking something much more subtle?  Travel cracks open your mind (and not just in the why-the-hell-would-anyone-put-that-shelf-two-feet-over-the-bed sense... though, for the record, ouch).  It exposes you to new avenues of thought (much the same way an excellent book can do).  And when you open new doors in your mind, inspiration walks through them.  So perhaps, in a way, I do travel for inspiration.  But it's not the boats or the monuments that do it, it's the new worlds inside.

And the people.  God, I love the people.

Sitting in the Rodin Museum, I found myself wondering if Rodin was ever happy with his work.  If he ever saw himself as succeeding in capturing that perfect moment, that perfect movement, that perfect emotion.  It made me wonder if the day of pure success, the day when we achieve the divinity of our ambitions, would in fact be the end of art.  If we need the quest, the unrequited desire to perfectly convey the feeling that is the genesis, the inspiration of it all.  If, perhaps, to be striving for great art, there has to be a lack we are trying to overcome.

Some of the greatest musicians/writers/artists were quite tortured.  Did that make them better?  If we were perfectly happy would we create?  If Shakespeare had been perfectly fulfilled in his love life would we have his work filled with such exquisite yearning?  Would his words have lost their sweet ache?  Movies like Shakespeare in Love want us to believe he loved and lost.  But why do we need to believe Shakespeare felt the kind of love he wrote about?  Why do we need to romanticize the man?  Even if he did not feel it through a person, he felt it through his words.

Why does passion on the page have to come directly from passion in life?  It's all around us.  It doesn't have to be happening to us. 

We all project so much, if you're listening for it.  There's this marvelous, wild sea of emotion in the air all the time.  When we're too much in ourselves, we can miss it, but when you listen you can almost taste it.  (Yes, I realized I mixed listen and taste, but those are the Right Words for what I mean.  Accept the dissonance and move along, boys and girls.  And, FYI, if you're looking for a book about tasting emotion, Tamara Hogan has some hot incubi who do just that in Taste Me, just sayin'.)

Could it be those most adept at writing the emotional squalls of humanity are simply those who are best able to open themselves up to the entire spectrum of human feeling floating around us at all times, rather than those who feel it most acutely themselves?  It seems, perhaps, that feeling it acutely yourself would be a handicap.  You become so centralized in your own narrow experience that you lose the ability to bring your reader (listener, viewer, whatever the art form) into the experience.  Perhaps the greats are not those who are best able to feel, but those best able to capture universal feeling.  To lasso the amorphous tide of human desire.

Is that listening something most of us grow into?  Is that part of why so few children write master works?  Because they certainly do not lack for creativity or inspiration.  Dreams are so bright and wild when you're young - but do you need the empathy that comes with age to truly connect with your audience emotionally?  Mozart composed as a boy and his songs were beautiful and precise and crisp and neat.  Beethoven composed as a man and his songs were savage and yearning and impassioned and fierce.  Was it not just the years they'd lived, but the ability to connect with the universality of life around them that separated them?

Just a thought.

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