Now there is an over-saturated word in our modern world.
It’s everywhere. Inspirational videos, posters, speakers, life stories, music, books, even dance.
It would be a bit weird, if it weren’t for the fact our entire species seems pretty geared towards always striving for success and the emulation of those we perceive to have achieved it.
‘The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.’
So I guess inspiration starts when we’re extremely tiny, and feel inspired to get our own limbs under control.
There’s a good chance I’m saying that because I got to spend extensive time with my friends’ gorgeous 4-month-old baby this weekend. If you want to be inspired, borrow a baby for a day and marvel at their determination to get these pesky limb things under control and crawl already.
It’s inspiring, and it’s what we tend to praise tiny people for as they develop. The first painting. The first word. The first step. All the new and exciting explorations!
I feel quite fortunate to have experienced the school system I did too, with the British National Curriculum actually still valuing creative skills and due time for them while I was in school.
I remember a writing week in Year 5 or 6 when I was quite young, and also the ‘bring your toys to school’ day after. I remember taking my Bicycle Barbie in for that. That I remember it so many years into my future means whatever was going on must have been important to me.
Disclaimer: She may have been a Sindy doll, not Barbie. The 90’s were a strange place best remembered only in fits and starts.
From Small Acorns…
I know for me, inspiration did start in primary school. I actually really enjoyed (or think I did) education, especially in my younger years despite some chronic bullying.
I attended a lovely little Victorian-era school in the outlying villages around Maidenhead.
I remember ringing the huge old bell to signal the end of lunch break. I remember the old style metal playground equipment we had. I remember playing ‘secret club’ games on the huge field behind the school, where we also had the most awesome Bonfire Night gatherings.
I remember it fondly enough I even went back there for a brief visit when I went to England last month to see my family. While the school does now have some extensions added to it for the modern era, the core of the old school is still there, as is the field. Not much has changed, though the school will no longer have the incredible headmaster there that taught me decades ago.
Speaking of him, when I was in Year 6, I was one of a small group of children who spent an hour on Friday mornings, reading in the Headmasters Office.
It was where I first ran into the wonderful works of Sir Terry Pratchett. We read The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, and Wings. Last year, I bought the trilogy for my nephew, who is the same age I was when I read them.
This is where my love of reading, writing and literature began. And grew into this nonsense I spend all my time on today.
Thank you Mr Goodall.
Seriously. I loved this school. Especially the Christmas Pantomime every year.
I’ve labeled a lot of my posts with ‘inspiration’ as a tag because some small part of the post talks about something I draw inspiration from.
Which, as anyone who has read my Research post will know, is basically everything.
I love knowing things, and I think so many things in the world are incredible. I also find people fascinating, even the ones I don’t like, and language is just the best thing, you guys because it lets us do so much.
I don’t know whether I am somehow blessed with luck that things I am interested in on a day to day basis become relevant to whatever I’m writing with uncanny ability, or whether I just adjust the world around me based on what’s currently got my attention, but I find inspiration to write all over the place, and I’m not sure how non-creative people cope.
What I do know though… is that things that claim to be inspirational rarely are.
Mr Goodall was inspiring because he had a genuine interest in me learning to read well.
Playing with my toys and friends was inspiring because I was learning about things I could do, and how to understand the thoughts of other human beings.
Learning about watermelon snow was inspiring because I knew I could put it into my work (for being super cool), and then other people would know about it too!
…the poster saying ‘be stronger than your excuses’ they had at one of my old jobs was not inspiring, because it wasn’t aimed at me specifically and was a lot more about being reprimanded for a potential future bout of laziness than investment in mine, or any other employees’, well-being.
Things which claim to inspire, but are mass marketed, are generally depressing, trite, or both.
Here’s a bit more of an example, to save me waffling too much.
I got to the Beneficient Overmind, and search ‘inspiration’.
First, I get a definition of the word, which is totally fine. Then there is a company that makes software. Great.
And then… Goodreads, with quotes.
I don’t think I have ever found a quote by some famous person to be inspiring. At least, not in a way I find meaningful.
The top quote is ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’, Eleanor Roosevelt.
I don’t have an issue with the sentiment, but I do know I have never done something scary as a result of it.
Instead, I have only done scary things when the suggestion came from my friends and family encouraging me to try new things and wanting to impress them. Most of them turned out to be fun!
Let’s try another one.
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Kurt Vonnegut.
If this were true, I would no doubt be in prison by now for the warped creativity of my young adult years, and the relationships I developed with my closest friends. Yet, for all I ‘pretend’ a lot in my life, the joy of humanity is the ability to hold two ideas, even opposed, in your head at once.
This is what I mean, in microcosm. Inspirational things are subjective, and I’m pretty sure the story of the ‘incredible’ boy who got his sight back after 24 years didn’t make anyone rush out to become an ophthalmologist immediately, or even an optician.
True, by definition being merely made to ‘feel’ something rather than act on it counts as inspiration, but that’s so ephemeral, and short-lived, especially compared to the kind of inspiration that does make you do something new or worthwhile.
I like the kind of inspiration that makes me curious, makes me learn, makes me do something new, even if it is scary so I can share my world and thoughts with others.
Maybe that just comes from being a writer by nature, or maybe I’m just weird (probably the latter).
Whatever the case, I hope all of you see or hear or read something inspiring today, that makes you excited or causes you to try something new.
And I hope you then tell everyone you love about it because that’s just awesome. Maybe even write it down!