From Where Does Inspiration Come?

Image Credit: Blogspot

Image Credit: Blogspot

As a musician, I struggle with this question, as having inspiration is essentially the difference between having chiseled rock and a sculpture.  Just from my own experience, I know I’ve gone on a couple occasions to find inspiration in what others are doing—going through Youtube and seeing other musicians work in the medium I’m working on.

And to some extent it works (as mentioned in my first weekly update in The Social Media Experiment).  Often we draw ideas from what’s around us.  For example, if lead singer/songwriter Chris Martin didn’t watch The O’Reilly Factor, Coldplay would never have made Violet Hill.  If you come across any of Bansky’s art, you’ll clearly see it’s a reaction to modern culture.

So in a pseudo-scientific manner, to conclude my observations: we experience.  We’re inspired.  We create.  Simple as that, right?  My 21st century self wants to agree and move on, but something inside me pulls me back.  Something feels awfully wrong by saying that inspiration comes merely from what we surround ourselves with.  After all, what about the Akiane Kramariks of this world, who paints things she’s never seen before?

To find answers, I turn to a wonderful movie I watched last week: The Wind Rises (Kaze tachinu).  [From here on, I warn all readers: SPOILERS]  This Academy Award Nominee (I still don’t understand how it didn’t win) is Hayao Miyazaki’s final film about the fictitious biography of Jiro Horikoshi.  Since a young boy, Horikoshi vividly dreamt of making beautiful airplanes—especially one in particular.

After years of study, Japan needs Horikoshi as war subtly looms over the world [though, it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the movie until much later on].  Japan needs good planes and they can’t help but feel ashamed and impoverished when they compare what their inferior planes to the full steel German junkers.  Horikoshi works excruciatingly hard to make a plane good enough for the military, but despite being one of the best engineers, failure is all that meets him.

Horikoshi is given a leave of absence to clear his thoughts.  It is only when he is in the mountains and falls in love that he is able to go back to the beginning and rethink his design.  He scraps the attempts of trying to make a plane similar to the Germans and goes back to create the plane of he dreamt as a child.  This plane ends up exceeding anything the Japanese army had in mind.

Much more happens in the movie, but that would lead me to an entirely differently blog.  But what I gathered from that tidbit: inspiration doesn’t come from others.  Horikoshi failed by trying to be inspired by the German airships.  Inspiration rather comes from the spirit inside of you.

This aligns with many traditions of inspiration.  The Greeks and Norse believed it was a gift of the gods to the individual.  Christians believe it comes from the Holy Spirit to the individual.  Romantic poets believed that it comes when one is attuned with “divine winds.”  Dr. Sigmund Freud believed it was located in the inner psyche.  All this to say, from the Greeks onward, inspiration has traditionally been personal or spiritual, but never reliant on other humans.

Yet how often do we try to find inspiration from other artists?  How often do we go on Youtube to try and replicate what’s out there?  Granted, watching what others do can spark inspiration.  After all, if Horikoshi did not meet his love in the mountains, he wouldn’t have been able to clear his German mindset.  But if we try to be inspired merely by observing what others are doing, all we create is chiseled rock.

I truly believe that we all can be inspired, but what inspires us will naturally be different from one another.  I urge us all to quell our desire to compare and create art that speaks to us personally.  For it is the best way for art to speak to the rest of the world.

About Jonathan Seligman

Jon is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of NWYT. While his main profession is in education/music/history, he has a deep passion for philosophy, theology, ice cream, and everything else that life has to offer. See All of Jon’s Posts

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