Archimedes had his Eureka moment in a bath and Sir Isaac Newton when musing in an orchard. Albert Einstein had his when sitting in a railway carriage. Photos Of Albert Einstein Being Chill (10)He saw another train leave and wondered which was actually moving. How often have you or I done this? And yet we never formulated the Theory of Relativity.

I sometimes wonder about the things which inspired writers. Did Shakespeare meet a man from Denmark while walking with his son, Hamnet? Did Dickens get his pocket picked and think of the Artful Dodger? Did Herman Melville see a goldfish in a bowl and conceive of Moby-Dick?

Whatever the factor, all writers are inspired to write by something. It may have been something grand. It may have been the sudden epiphany moment which James Joyce writes about. It may have been small, like when I watched Ridley Scott’s film ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’ I shook my head at the scene when Balian of Ibelin knighted commoners to help defend Jerusalem against Saladin. What a typical piece of Hollywood fiction, I thought. As soon as I got home I read about the siege and was astonished to see that Balian actually took this desperate measure. He did the unthinkable and knighted ordinary men.

 And then came my moment of inspiration. I wondered what would happen to those ordinary men after their services were no longer required. What would happen to people who were elevated above their normal station in life? This little question led to my novel, ‘Outcasts.’

So where does inspiration come from? The word is derived from the Latin for breathe upon and suggests that someone is breathing something mystical and otherworldly into your lungs. the-kiss-of-the-muse

The concept is intimately connected with that of the Muse.  There were any number of Muses in ancient time but all seemed to occupy the place between the gods and humanity. They could be said to be the bridge between the sacred and the mundane. Not a bad metaphor for when we’re beginning to do something creative.

Inspiration, then, is an idea from nowhere, the little question in the back of the mind, the rumble of thunder on the horizon. As we get older we get really good at ignoring these insights. If we are wiser, or wish to be more creative, we try to view them in a child-like manner. We seek to capture them as if they are daffodil seeds floating on the breeze. Capture them but never squeeze too hard. They are easily squashed.

It seems to me that inspiration strikes most often when we let our guard down, when we’re open to the world, to the casual idea, the overheard remark. The best ideas sneak up on us in a playful manner and if we don’t pay attention to them they are likely to sulk and run away.

Once I have my inspiration I usually run with it, lying down and staring at the sky or ceiling. More often than not it sticks around to play and together we conjure up further ideas and insights. I fall into a rather dreamy state and lots of ideas rush at each other, colliding, interacting and suggesting new combinations. I find it best to always have a notebook nearby for it is in the nature of inspiration to be as light as a cloud, ephemeral and easily forgotten.

Sometimes, however, inspiration needs a little prod. In the next post I’ll talk about how to encourage your mind to be creative and how to nurture inspiration.

And what about you? I’d love to hear from you about inspiration and how it strikes you.


About Martin Lake

Martin Lake lives in the French Riviera with his wife. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director. A serious accident shattered his arm and meant that he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. He writes a wide range of fiction. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults. Martin has a series of novels 'The Lost King' which are set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. They concern Edgar Atheling, last representative of the ancient English royal dynasty and his fight to regain the throne from William the Conqueror. Martin has also published 'Artful' the further adventures of the Dodger and 'Outcasts' a novel about fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. His latest novel, 'A Love Most Dangerous' is about a maid of honour who becomes the lover of Henry VIII. Martin’s work has been broadcast on radio. He won first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society competition to write a story based on 'The Wind in the Willows.' You can get the collection, 'The Wind in the Willows Short Stories' from Amazon.
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6 Responses to Inspiration

  1. tigers68 says:

    My Muse seems to sometimes hit me up at odd times like when I’m driving or simply out of the blue. Of course, up until now these ideas were related to short works or book reviews. Now that i am contemplating a full bore novel the ideas are springing out of the research I’m doing. That’s not to say She is completely abandoning the epiphany approach and those ideas I think are the most fun as that type of inspiration seems to me to be more creative.


    • Martin Lake says:

      Hi Paul, I think the Muse often strikes me out of the blue as well. I think it’s about being in the flow. I’ll write a bit more about that in a couple of days. But I also think that inspiration comes from putting together ideas. More about that soon as well.

  2. Terrific post Martin. You write eloquently about writers’ inspiration and what you say is so true. I loved the way you compared writers’ at the beginning of your post to that of scientists such as Einstein – a beautiful analogy. After all, inspiration is where it all begins.

  3. Pingback: When Inspiration Needs a Nudge | martinlakewriting

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