Friday, October 05, 2007

A Boing-No | Muse Under the Microscope

Hurrah! My query letters have arrived in New York!

i.e. I've already gotten an email rejection.

But the reason given was quite acceptable: "not taking new authors in this genre at this time." Yay! My ego lives on to fight again another day! *curtseys gratefully to Speedy Agent*

Although--I do hope that, somewhere in New York, some intrepid person is rummaging the unused SASEs out of literary agents' recycle boxes and steaming the stamps off for resale.

Now: shortly after my last post, I had an idea for another post. A meatier one. An interesting one.

Danged if I can remember what that idea was; I've been trying to recall it all week. So, rather than that presumably-brilliant post, I'm just going to wing it for you, here and now. Brace yourself: you're about to be subjected to the first thing that falls out of my brain.

Inspiration! Yes, what a fabulous idea!

I'm really curious about the science of inspiration. This study by Thrash and Elliot (2004) notes that little work has been done in the field. However, they note some interesting stuff in their paper. For example, they have this breakdown of the components of inspiration:
[I]nspiration has three core characteristics: (a) transcendence, (b) evocation, and (c) motivation (Thrash & Elliot, 2003). Transcendence refers to the fact that inspiration orients one toward something that is better or more important than one’s usual concerns; one sees better possibilities. Evocation refers to the fact that inspiration is evoked and unwilled; one does not feel directly responsible for becoming inspired. Finally, inspiration involves motivation to express or make manifest that which is newly apprehended; given the positive valence of this aim, inspiration is conceptualized as an appetitive motivational state.
So: Inspiration is a great idea coupled with the happy knowledge that you've just had a great idea. Inspiration feels like it came sleeting into your brain from nowhere, and you reallyreallyreally want to act on it or share it with others.

Boy, that all sounds familiar, doesn't it? I think writing your story down and trying to get it published counts as both acting on your inspiration and wanting to share it with others.

I'd love to learn the nitty gritty of what your brain is actually doing during an inspiration, but I suppose it's hard to capture such a moment on an MRI. For one thing, I hear the inside of an MRI machine is pretty dull--which brings me to something else the paper linked to above says:
[I]nspiration tends to occur on the same days as other positive experiences.
I have noticed I come up with more good ideas of my own when I am keeping myself well-stimulated with good art/books/movies/cool facts/groovy science, etc. When I'm being a hermit (which I do enjoy, unfortunately), I'm less creative. Other people's fine works inspire me to create my own. Happy experiences positively affect my writing/artwork.

Isn't it nice to hear you're not really wasting valuable writing time when you go out for a night on the town? You're just priming your creativity-pump!

Does Thrash and Elliot's description of inspiration ring true for you or do you disagree? What do you experience when you have an inspiration, and what do you do after you've had one? Does something need to trigger the inspiration or does it come from nowhere? Is there anything you can do to encourage inspiration in yourself? Please tell me your experience!

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