Friday 27 July 2012

Inspiration: stacking the odds in your favour

The North Ridge of Tryfan, Ogwen Valley:
I'm going here this week in search of inspiration!
'Writing is ten percent inspiration, and ninety percent perspiration'. This is an often-quoted phrase, usually trotted out when a writer is struggling and complaining of writer's block or a general lack of enthusiasm. While it is substantially true--writing is hard work, and moments of true inspiration are rare--I think it oversimplifies what is actually quite a complex interplay of emotion and information in the writer's mind.

We rely on inspiration to propel us forward in a burst of creativity, or to sew the seeds of a new idea which may then be fleshed out during the 'perspiration' phase. Without it, the writer's voice would wither, and the words would fall flat on the page. It's all too easy to sit back passively and wait for inspiration to strike, but I believe this is the wrong approach: it's possible to get out there and seek inspiration out, put yourself in its path.

Every writer is different, but for me inspiration is to be found in two contrasting places: the beauty of the mountains, and the vacant state of mind when the body is occupied in some menial or repetitive task. Happily, the actual process of climbing is often a menial and repetitive task, which (for me) makes mountaineering the greatest source of all inspiration. Rather less poetically, I've also found inspiration when wrapping cutlery at work for hours on end, as it allows the mind to wander.

In my case, the obvious conclusion for maximum creativity would be simply to live amongst the mountains. I tried it, for two and a half years, and it didn't work. The problem was that when mountains surrounded me and became part of my daily life and routine, they lost a big part of their meaning and stopped working their magic. I also found myself too busy climbing to actually write.

So: for me, inspiration is to be found in the initial joy of homecoming when reunited with the mountains I love, and in the long, reflective silence after I have left them. Every writer has to discover what inspires them the most and then seek out that state of mind when they really need it.

I'm off to Snowdonia for a week of camping, walking, scrambling, climbing, reading, and hopefully writing! Last time I went on a scrambling trip I came up with a complete idea for a novel--which will be written at some point in the future; at the moment it's third in the queue. Let's hope this trip is just as productive.

I'll be back on Saturday!

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