I have been struggling to write this one. I’ve had an introduction written out for the better part of a month, but when it got to the question “who inspires me” I got stuck. Not because I couldn’t think of anyone, I have a whole list. It was thinking about how they inspired me that made me draw a blank. It was only 14 hours after I was supposed to publish this that I really had a grasp on how to go about answering where my inspiration comes from. Procrastination, my friends. If you’re considering it, I highly recommend.
Like I said, I know the people who I look at their work and go “I want that.” The problem is that I don’t see “that” in my own work more often than not. I love Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories, but that’s nowhere to be found in my collection. I love Austin Kleon’s work, but his is not even the same medium of poetry that I do. I can go through a list and name people I like to read, but I don’t think that’s really synonymous with “inspired by”. What is easier for me to see, however, is who/what inspired specific representations of specific works.
For example, my poem Backbone Ridge is a story my father-in-law told me, plus the rhythm of a suspenseful story time country song from the 80s. Bubblegum Sentience was inspired by lines from cartoon comics, a couple memes, and Fulton Lee’s ability to put words together that just sound interesting. This is what the “Behind the Poem” section is for: to explore all the little intricate things that made me think “yeah, this is a good idea.” But as far as one or two people that drove me to do all of this exactly the way I do? That doesn’t exist.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a fine, squiggly line between “inspiration” and straight up copying someone’s style (I don’t mean plagiarism here; that’s a much thicker line). If you have a fruit basket and Jimmy has a fruit basket, and his is filled with oranges, copying would be to say “I also want a basket full of oranges” because you saw Jimmy with them and wanted whatever benefit Jimmy specifically got from having a basket full of oranges. Inspiration would be “Oh yeah, oranges ARE good. Thanks for the reminder. I will put an orange in my basket amongst these other five fruits that I enjoy.” That’s not to say that a basket full of oranges is a bad thing, it’s just a different motivation. It touches on the idea of having authenticity in our work and presenting the things we like the way we like.
One person’s entire style does not always resonate with me, but maybe pieces of it does. Austin Kleon showed me that it is possible to live a life full of creativity. Tim Burton showed me it’s okay to be weird and expressive and have fun with your work. Maria Popova showed me there is a whole world of written work and thought processes to be considerate of and dig into. Bug Hunter exemplifies the ability to just enjoy your hobby, as well as carry something that just feels so “you” in 15 different styles of work. I want to take all of these little special things I find about each dynamic person or piece of work and sprinkle them in amongst my own life experiences and way of doing things. That’s what makes something “inspired.” Seeing a little “woah, that’s cool” moment and throwing it in the basket. And another, and another, whether from professionals or family members or friends or TV or what have you. Then taking all of that and throwing them in the recipe that is your creation.
Inspiration is a little bit of them and a whole lot of you, and who “them” can change with each new thing that comes up. I’m honestly not sure if I answered “where my inspiration comes from” here. Everything all the time, except when it’s one specific thing at one specific time? Yeah, I think that sums it up. Creativity is a process not to be limited to one to three people’s ideas for the sake of an SEO-friendly title. It’s a conglomeration of love, and work, and boredom, and ideas, and passion. Sometimes it’s from others, sometimes it’s from us.
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Liberty Jensen • Writer
Liberty is a donations manager, finance student, and full-time drinker of coffee. She enjoys poetry, her cats, and spending time with her husband.