Inspiration. It’s everywhere. As they say, “just look!”
Some readers often ask a writer where she finds her vision, and the more fact-like a work appears, the more a reader assumes the work to be “true.” Perhaps that is when a work is most successful. The reader slips into another reality, suspends disbelief and asks finally, “Did this really happen?” Perhaps the deciding difference is the source of inspiration, the moment when a true idea ‘hits.”
Where does creativity, make-believe, come from? The short answer? Who knows. It’s a bit like the verse from the King James Bible, John 3:8: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Or maybe A.A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh, addresses the question of the origin of inventiveness in the opening of his poem ‘Wind on the Hill’.
No one can tell me,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.
Tracy Chevalier, I am told, found inspiration for her bestselling novel Girl with a Pearl Earring in a poster, a reprint of Johannes Vermeer’s painting of the same name. Apparently, she bought this image as a nineteen year old because she was taken by the model’s ambiguous look, and hung the work wherever she lived for the next sixteen years. This image was the portal through which she went, and eventually her readers followed, into 17th-century Delft, Holland, and the mind of Vermeer and his young model with the quizzical look.
Recently in Oxford city centre, making my way up St Mary’s Passage, which runs between the University Church of St Mary the Virgin and what was once the City Arms Pub, I was made to notice a wooden door with its carved image of the Green Man, embellished on either side, holding up the archway, by two gilded fauns. The Green Man is usually a symbol of rebirth, with leaves running in, out and around his mouth and nostrils, while the faun is a mythological creature made up of part man and part goat, similar to a satyr.
I was told that as the author and academic C.S. Lewis came out the side door of the University Church after preaching a sermon, this carving of the Green Man and the two fauns allegedly stopped him in his tracks, and served in that instant as inspiration, a portal if you will, into Narnia, where he and his readers meet Aslan, not unlike the Green Man, and Mr. Tumnus, not unlike a gilded faun. Further up the same passageway is a lamp post that would appear to be exactly the snowy lamp post that the Pevensie children see as the edge of Narnia and where they first meet the faun Mr. Tumnus. Coincidence or just Mr. Lewis out on a snowy eve on St. Mary’s Passage?
So? What to say? Look up, out and look around! Inspiration is everywhere, whether on an old pub door that you finally notice after years of passing it by or a cheap poster, maybe bought for a dorm room, that catches your eye for the millionth time sixteen years later. Who knows? There might be a reason why. The entryway to your own next masterpiece?
Happy October. Relish the turning of the trees, the falling of the leaves and the shake, rattle and roll of autumnal winds that may just invite that trusty muse inside.