Perhaps the word inspiration has become trite. Whether I'm writing fiction or nonfiction, I've been asked more than once if I ever "feel" inspired to write. I know it's a standard author-type question, but I don't quite believe in the idea of a grand light-bulb moment or a guiding Muse.
I do, however, often read something that gives me an idea or image.
That definition of inspire I do agree with--to produce or arouse a feeling, thought, etc.
Two years ago, I was trying to choose a John Donne poem to teach to my high school juniors. And, as often happens, I kept reading because I was enjoying reading Donne for the delight of simply reading poetry much like C.S. Lewis's idea of "receiving" versus "using" the poems we read. In An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis also mentions how we delight in the stir of our imaginations.
When I encountered Donne's Holy Sonnet V [below], I had a glimmer of an idea. In the moment, I wasn't stirred by his purpose of calling us to repentance. No, I was captured by the image of new spheres and new lands as Donne cried out for the eternal hope of seeing them. I am a little world? The angelic juxtaposed with black sin? New spheres? New lands?
It was then I sensed it.
I call it a compelling.
What new world could I picture? What could I write of? These were the moments that led me to begin writing fiction for the first time, the completed middle-grade fantasy novel I am querying today.
I am a little world made cunningly
*My favorite Donne collection remains the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series because...well, who doesn't like a pocket-size book of poetry?