The inspirational image. Round four.

One of the definitions of inspiration is the drawing of air into the lungs, or inhalation. This definition brings inspiration down to earth, as inhaling is a perfectly normal function. Why put it on a pedestal and treat it as something extraordinary?

As my Tai Chi instructor recently reminded me, inspiration comes from the Latin spiritus, or soul, and is related to spirare, to breathe. It is the animating or vital principle in man and animals.

I also like the definition of inspiration as an ‘arousal’ of the mind to unusual activity or creativity. It has a certain sensual connotation that appeals to me.

In writing, there is inspiration and there is discipline. When I stop writing daily, on schedule, inspiration seems to evaporate along with the discipline. I lose sight of what it is I’m writing about, and why. For me, it is the act of writing itself that triggers that inspirational image.

In ’13 Ways of Looking at the Novel,’ to which I return again and again, Jane Smiley says:

When I conceived ‘A Thousand Acres,’ the ideas about Lear’s daughters and about agriculture had been knocking around in my mind for fifteen years or so, but the exact moment they jelled was when I was driving down I-35 in northern Iowa in late March 1988. The landscape was flat and cold, lit by a weak winter sun, and as I stared out the window, the farm fields seemed enormous and isolated. As soon as I said, “This is where I could set that Lear book,” the whole thing came into my mind, and the image of that bleak landscape remained throughout the writing of the book as a talisman to return to every time composition faltered.

So. When ‘composition’ falters, I just breathe in and bring to mind the image that inspired my current novel. And allow it to inspire me anew.

Ding! Round over.

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