“Creativity, Art, Inspiration.” I roll these words around in my head, trying to define them, trying to explain them, and the more I try the less I’m convinced that it’s even possible. This won’t stop me from trying, of course, because that’s what the creative types do – we try to define the things that defy explanation. It doesn’t matter what your medium is or what your genre is, I think all art is about trying to express something that can’t be expressed in a conventional, conversational way. All great stories reveal something true. It can be some grand, sweeping realization about the human existence, or it could be the reason your Great Aunt Gertrude put so damn much ketchup on everything she ever ate, but by the time that creation is finished, somebody should be able to get something out of it they wouldn’t have found otherwise. And that someone doesn’t even necessarily have to be the creator. I’m an English teacher, and let me tell you, the greatest moments in my classroom are those times that a student comes up with an interpretation of a story that I hadn’t considered before, something no teacher ever said to me or no analysis I ever read expressed. That kid may have found something in Mark Twain that Twain couldn’t have possibly intended, because it’s dependent on some piece of technology or some moment of history that hadn’t happened yet when the work was written. But for that kid, it’s a valid interpretation. My student has found inspiration in the past, synthesized it with his own experience, and created something new.
(I focus on writing here because I am, primarily a writer, but the same holds true for all art. Film and drama are other forms of storytelling with many of the same concerns. Sculpture, painting, and music stir up emotion and truth all in their own way. Even the culinary arts are intended to draw out emotion through presentation and taste, going far beyond the basic needs of sustenance.)
Much of my writing, I think, comes from the same kind of synthesis I enjoy seeing from my students. I enjoy looking at works of the past and finding a modern context, looking at modern works and finding the historical roots, finding different ways of looking at old tropes and clichés, trying to find ways to explain all those bits and pieces that the great writers of the past left orphaned, with no explanation given (and often, to be honest, no explanation necessary). I find myself taking in everything, thinking about everything, and looking for ways to make it all work as one. I guess for me, personally, when I write that truth I’m trying to reveal is that there really is room for everything. Whether you’re trying to make someone laugh, cry, scream in terror or fall in love, you can make it all work hand in hand, because those emotions are right there in all of us.
Inspiration is whatever spurs creativity. Art is the result of creativity. Creativity itself, I suppose, is whatever it is you want to do in-between those two points.
Heh. Look at that. I guess I could define them after all.