We talk about inspiration as though it’s something graspable, just within our reach, something we can acquire but we don’t quite have yet. Meanwhile, inspiration lurks, a vague wordy shadow meaning nothing specific, nothing tangible.
As a concept, we’ve managed to take something as positive as inspiration and use it for negative means. Inspiration is a word we use to avoid getting the job done- feeling uninspired, no inspiration for this project, not inspired to finish this. But inspiration is also something to be ashamed of, it would seem- more and more often, we use the term with passive aggression, believing that to be inspired by something, or someone, is almost as bad as theft.
In our world of copyright infringement and intellectual property, the world of social media and the web, source checking and date checking- when we are inspired by others, sometimes we now feel guilty. It’s not enough, now, to be inspired and to use that inspiration to forge our own projects. We, too often, feel that we are required to come up with entirely new concepts- we must have something new and different to say, or else our idea is worth nothing. All this, to keep us in a catch 22, where we go around in circles trying to find inspiration and, if we find it in something which is not our own, to back away from it and try to find it elsewhere.
It’s a fallacy of the modern world- that all ideas should be ‘original’ ideas. How many times have we seen job advertisements where, ‘the candidate must be able to create new concepts and brainstorm fresh ideas’.
Historically, though, it has been inspiration which has ultimately resulted in the greatest individual successes. Some of Van Gogh’s initial work included direct copies of other artists, such as Hiroshige. Shakespeare famously took the majority of his plot concepts from old tales and traditional Greek theatre. Inspiration, in the form that we now consider bordering on plagiarism, has a rich history in creating masterpieces.
Perhaps, if we were not so busy worrying about our sources of inspiration, and avoiding the things which truly inspire us, then we would allow ourselves to explore our inspirations and work from them, towards something great.
What will you allow yourself to be inspired by?
Featured image: Prateek Katyal via Unsplash.