Laptop with “You Got This” sign for inspiration
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Behind grammar and spelling, inspiration features heavily in any writer’s toolbox. Regardless of what words you put together, if the so-called “spark of genius” fails to make an appearance, you’re just typing random words onto a screen. I’ve made the frequent claim that inspiration can come from anywhere, citing various sources as blog topics to illustrate that very point. I meant the words, but I never expected to find them echoing back from the depths of my mind.

Defining Inspiration

Depending on who you speak to, inspiration is transcendent, amplifying your senses and awareness to the point of heightened awareness. Artists and writers alike often invoke a higher power as the source of their work, making sure they craft appropriate sacrifices before engaging in their projects. (If you burn enough pencils, you’re guaranteed to come up with the perfect solution on what to write next) It sounds magical and beyond accurate description.

So why does inspiration seem like such an elusive creature at times? Why do so many writers spend hours (and days and weeks) staring at blank screens, struggling to figure out what to write? Why do we stare around us at people with word counts in the millions and feel like failures in comparison? (Despite the psychological claim that observing the success of others drives our innate core of inspiration) Why did I register for Medium, then draw a complete and utter blank on what to write, despite a full calendar of topics for my blogs?

Tricky creature, inspiration.

And then the Clouds Part

When trying to force creativity, inspiration slips away. Why can we create something out of nothing? Because, often, we’re not trying. A turn of phrase sparks our imagination — lying dormant on the seabed of our minds. An image catches our fancy, blooming into an entire symphony of sentences while we sit back and admire the flow of color. Words pour from our fingers in time with the music playing through our ears, whether we absorb the lyrics or not.

Or we see a grouping of three letters on a license plate and start pondering the nature of inspiration.

True story: I glanced up at the car in front of me, saw the letters “URU” and all hope was lost. (Gained?)

Synapses that clamped shut for days started firing in overdrive. Words surfaced from the depths, provoking imagery and phrases I’ve never used or encountered. A simple affirmation, born of a random cluster of letters, prompted a single question to bloom in the back of my mind.

Suddenly, I had my first Medium post.

Inspiration = Possibility

That’s what inspiration is, when you get down to it. The knowledge you already have, combined with the world around you, through the filter of a new lens. It’s that defining moment of clarity when everything comes together to present a fresh way of asking a question. You have a unique possibility to answer that question, from your perspective.

Yes, I laughed when I saw the license plate. (Probably frightened the people around me, but that’s not a new experience) “You are you” blossomed into asking the questions:

“Where does inspiration come from?”

“Can inspiration happen that spontaneously?”

“Did you seriously just get an idea from a license plate?”

Three letters translated into examining inspiration and what it means. Not just to other writers and me, but people in general. And, yes, reinforcing that oft-quoted lesson that anything can inspire.

Including the first part of a license plate.

Perhaps it won’t lead where you imagine. But that’s half the fun of creativity.

So instead of creating an altar of pens, old drafts, and broken laptops, go through your typical day. Keep your eyes, ears, and especially mind open. Because you never know what might trigger your next idea.

Freelance science writer, meanderer of thoughts, and complete animal nut. My life is governed by a tiny demon (or possibly a flerken - still running tests).