Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Do you wait for it? Or do you go out and make it happen? If you can do that, if you can make it happen, if you can call it up like a sorcerer summoning a djnn, is it actually inspiration at all?

Sometimes I feel the need to be inspired. I bump along through life, lucky enough to like what I do, lucky enough to do something with creative elements, but I feel myself wanting something more; something impractical and obtuse and ephemeral that serves no "purpose" whatsoever except perhaps to make you feel good. Something like art, I suppose. At those times I want to be inspired, I want to be moved, I want the spark that will get the juices flowing, the mental gears turning and the body moving ... don't be alarmed by the smell. I never said the gears moved smoothly.

There are times when I have no need to search for inspiration. It just falls down into my lap, or plops down onto my head, which gives it something in common with bird poop and perhaps explains whey I sometimes produce "art" that is similar to bird poop too. When I was a kid, I was inspired to write fiction by the sources around me; movies, comic books, short stories, song lyrics. And, indeed, what I produced was often fairly faithful emulations of those original sources. You call it derivative, I called it .. inspiration. The stories themselves were clearly pastiches of the originals but the question still comes: What inspired me to emulate that art in the first place? I never asked that question because I was too busy developing writer's cramp (yes, Virginia, there was an age before keyboards when you actually had to use a pen to write and when you did it as much as I .. it hurt.)

Inspiration comes sneaking or barrelling at us from different sources. Collette was inspired to take on her upcoming two day walk to end breast cancer (personally, I think a nice stroll and a drive around the block is sufficient but that's just me) by some of our family members who have gone through that rabbit hole and come out the other side. That, in turn, fills me with inspiration but I an uncertain how to channel it: Should I write a story? A poem? Make a video? Well, I am certainly shooting the event for posterity but am I going to make a simple "documentary" style video or something more subjective, something emotional ... something "inspirational"

Should you go out searching for inspiration or should it always just come to you, a creative response to some external source: A movie, a song, the experience of another? This speculation comes out of a vision of inspiration as something ethereal, deeply hidden inside of us; yes, perhaps something even spiritual. We are talking epiphany here, the bolt out of the blue, like Vic is bumping up Highway 400 in the Saturn and ka-boom: I'm suddenly seeing a family in an old Rambler station wagon moving up this highway except the road is deserted, the countryside is devastated, the father is hunched over the steering wheel, face sweaty, eyes flicking across the horizon and mom is in the back, her sick daughter at her side, an old M-40 in her hands ... And the vision is quickly dismissed because who needs another world-wiped-out scenario? But still, the image came unbidden, boom, out of the blue.

That's the way it usually works for me; the inspiration flooding in unbidden, regardless of the original source. So now I find myself searching for inspiration, somehow trying to manufacture it. I have this idea of grabbing my Samsung palmcorder, the one that fits in my pocket, grabbing one tape, one battery, taking the Metropass, jumping on Toronto transit and just seeing what the day and my city holds for me, basically going on a hunt for inspiration (be vewy vewy quiet, we're hunting muses .. hahahahaha). Is this somehow less legitimate than the bolt from the blue? Is there more creative cache if the inspiration finds you, or is it the same if you find it?

I'm not really questioning the creative process, I guess I'm examining what gets you there in the first place: First the inspiration, then the creation. Does it matter what leads you to the creation? Or is it the creation itself that is important? Works of art should stand on their own, I should be able to view a painting, read a book, hear a song and just take it as it is, as that singular work of art. But let's face it, some art is made more compelling by the story behind it, the inspiration that leads to it.

I am an Audie Murphy fan. Go ahead, Google him, I'm in no hurry. He was never a great actor, he made very few really good movies, but he churned out the kind of simple, straight ahead Western films I devoured as a kid and I can still watch those movies, and watch him, just for the simple pleasure of it: Audie did not make big, eloquent western sagas like John Ford or George Stevens, he made little, drive-in targeted cowboy movies. Audie was also the most decorated American solder in World War 2. This guy performed feats of individual combat that has rarely been matched. A poor, pretty much illiterate kid who grew up hunting for sustenance on the plains of West Texas. In one of his movies, (it may be Bullet for a Badman but you could pick several) Audie is in the showdown with the bad guy and does what every cowboy actor did at the time; he "fanned" his single action Colt, brushing the flat of his hand across the trigger in succession, allowing him to blast off shots quickly. Its a bullshit move. Even if the pistol did not misfire from such abuse you would not hit a damn thing. Yet, of course, in his movie, Audie mows down his enemies, all standard stuff. Yet: When Audie, a combat vet and expert with firearms, was first shown this "gag" by a stunt coordinator, he told the guy "It just won't work that way" The stuntman rolled his eyes at this naive kid (Audie was still in his twenties when he started making movies even after two or three years fighting in Europe) and told him it didn't matter, the bullets were blank and the bad guys would be levelled by squibs. Audie wasn't happy. Set his jaw and disappeared. The next day Audio shows up on set. The prop guy goes to find the pistol and its missing, Audie says "Its OK, I took the thing home" and takes the stunt and prop men to the back lot, loads the Colt up with live rounds and precedes to fan the Colt just like in the movie ... except he hits everything he aims at. He had spent the night modifying the weapon and practising until he actually could fan a single action pistol with efficiency. When you watch that scene it works in a very generic, predictable sense. But know the story behind it, knowing that Audie brought some spark of inspiration to the scene, it blows my mind: Damn, that skinny little dude could just mow you down.

So inspiration matters. It infuses the art, it is what the art is all about. But is the inspiration any more or less relevant depending on its source? I really don't know the answer to that. I just know I'm happy when that creative grease is slick on the wheels and perhaps I should not question it all.

If inspiration is a mystery, then Gaina at The Mouth on Wheels has summed up the entire process far more eloquently than I. Happy hunting to all.

No comments:

Top Blogs Pets

Add to Technorati Favorites