What Is Inspiration?

For the longest time I thought of inspiration as events from real life that made such an impression upon me that I had to write about them.  People often speak of inspiration as the result of an artistic accomplishment so remarkable that it influenced others to pursue their own artistic drives, and there are a lot of readers whose work I’ve admired over the years, but I mainly read for enjoyment, so it was harder for me to see the influence of what I’ve read on what I’ve written.  The connection between reality and my fiction, on the other hand, was more direct and easier for me to see.

This caused me to think of inspiration in that narrow definition, but for the longest time I tried to square the relationship between the reality where I draw my source material and the make believe world that I’m trying to be part of.  I’ve always aimed for realism in my fiction, but the fact that fiction is made up and therefore not real always conflicted within my imagination.  Over the years I navigated between these two seemingly opposing forces and came to understand that realism is not enough, a story also has to engage the reader or audience.

But the other day, while writing about a new idea I was pondering (how all works of fiction are hypothetical situations), I had an epiphany.  It finally dawned upon me that inspiration is a duality, and that the two kinds of inspiration, material and aspirational, work together and not apart.  At long last I have reached a truce over the paradox of reality and make believe, and I will now write with a greater sense of symmetry.

Will this new realization actually improve my writing?  Hard to say, but it can’t hurt.


©2020 Robert Kirkendall


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