Inspiration

Saul Bellow wrote:

“You never have to change anything you get up in the middle of the night to write”

I carry a small notebook around in my handbag and have a journal at the side of my bed. If I wake in the night with ideas and don’t write them down, by morning they are forgotten, like the dreams I’m sure I must have but never remember. If I’m in a cafe or doctor/dentist/hospital waiting room inspiration can find me there too, so I use the handbag notebook to capture the words or ideas before they evaporate. There is something about the stillness of the body and mind that allows thoughts, ideas, words to filter upwards into consciousness. Yet rarely when I’m sitting quietly at my computer ready to work does the same random inspiration find me. I always have to get up, walk around, make some coffee, eat something; anything except sit there and expect to be inspired. It’s as if I have to be doing something else before my mind is free enough for the words or ideas to bubble up. And when they do, are they mine alone or merely shadows of something I’ve read somewhere?

TS Eliot said:

“Immature poets immitate; mature poets steal”

which is probably very true. How often can people come up with truly original ideas that have never been thought or written before? I’ve absolutely no idea. All I know is that the more I read, the more I absorb other people’s ideas, concepts, words and phrases. Plagiarism is one of my concerns because unless I write it down my memory is not so good that I can identify where I heard, or came across something, that inspired me. I think it is wholesale lifting of chunks of someone else’s work that is prosecuted and I’m not in danger of that, but I do like to acknowledge where I got my inspiration from. When sleep throws up ideas or words I’ve no way of knowing where they came from because they’re part of a sub-conscious process that goes on regardless. I suppose it’s a bit like the body ridding itself of shrapnel; eventually everything rises and makes its way out into the world. The trick is to make it your own.

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