Inspiration seems to me to be a hunger in the heart, an urge that forces us to leave whatever we have been doing and put all the force of our minds and souls into creating something.
The only problem is that this urge doesn’t come when needed. Sometimes it doesn’t come at all. We all have had times when ideas flow easily, bringing wave after wave of wit and wonderment. At such times, the creative light burn with incandescent fire, and ideas are readily transformed into art. But there are other times when any worthwhile thought is absent, times when I have looked into my mind and found… nothing.
Mind you, this is not the elegant nashi of zen but a desert. A bleak wilderness.
Not wanting to dwell in any wilderness, I try to cudgel my brain into movement. I pull out boxes of fabric and spill them on the floor. Surely, these bright colors…? I reach for watercolors and a new sheet of paper. I sit in front of the computer, turn on a bach cantata and… nothing. Zip. Nada.
The sad truth is that nothing can keep these moments of emptiness at bay, and my gray hairs have taught me that if we want the force of yang, we also need the quiet darkness of yin. So, on fallow days I let the emptiness alone. Many a closet have I cleaned during these times of eclipse. And eventually? well, yes, eventually the light begins to flicker once again.
All very well for you to ramble on, you might say, but where DO we gather inspiration? Probably there are a thousand ways, each way unique to the mind of the artist. A photographer is bedazzled with light falling on a stone wall. An artist looks through a rain-spattered window and is amazed by movement and color. A writer hears a snatch of conversation. For myself, I have been told that my mind resembles a whale that lets plankton lazily drift in and out. Sometimes a bit of information slides in and remains dormant until something else nudges it into wakefulness. Disparate experiences hang about and then, quite suddenly, take on form and substance.
It would be lovely if this procedure could be hurried along, but instantaneous connection between an idea and inspiration doesn’t oblige us very often. Sometimes we need to experience that idea with all our senses. Once, long ago, while on a pleasure trip on the seas near Bangkok, Thailand, we were caught in a terrible thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning sizzled down; the sea turned inky and began to buck and heave; rain fell like bullets from a coal-black sky which, I swear, hung two feet above our heads. I had been reading about boat people escaping from Vietnam, but not until that moment did I know what real fear was. Not until then did I know I was going to write A Boat To Nowhere.
Light of passing car
Illuminates for moments
This cold, dark roadway.