I went interstate for a bit. There was scenery to look at and memories and feelings. I was inspired. I was going to write about it. But I don’t think I will. I may write it or express it somehow, perhaps in some story, perhaps not. But about it seems to corrupt it, or exhaust its kinetic energy.
Which leads me to Blake and Wordsworth. I studied them a little at university and they provide an important lesson regarding this inspiration thing that people keep insisting writers and artists and musicians keep talking about.
Wordsworth wrote about nature and more generally the world around him – like his vision of London. Blake was master of his inner world and expressed it through poetry and engravings. Wordsworth stopped writing poetry. Blake never stopped being creative. I’m not judging one over the other in terms of their works. Wordsworth has some truly beautiful poetry and Blake can be mystifying as well as mystical. Yet, it was suggested that if we rely on the outside world to sustain our creativity it can’t last. That notion has stayed with me when I’ve forgotten so much else (like who Hogarth was exactly and which pre-Socratic lived earliest).
If we rely, like Wordsworth, on the outside world, we will run out of new things to say about it or bring to it. However, if Blake-like, we sustain ourselves by keeping faith with the inner fires of our imagination, then there is a chance they could keep us creating for the duration – for as long as Tygers burn in the forests of the night-time of our dreams.
This notion seems strange to people who ask where do your ideas come from? Or why draw that? Prosaic answers could list influences, like books and education and family. And it is true, the world is endlessly enticing, now as it was in Blake’s time, but Blake didn’t need it. He didn’t need to wander through the Lake District lonely as a cloud to conjure his art or his poetry. He mostly stayed in London and more importantly, he mostly stayed in his head. And it worked for him. I think this is why I appreciate Zentangle so much. No one asks what’s that then? Or who’s that supposed to be? It is a thing true to itself and my mood and if you like, my muse. As writing should be at its best.
Similarly, we shouldn’t need outside input. Art shouldn’t always be about reacting against or to something. Or if it is, perhaps we don’t need to be so linear, so direct about it. We need to filter it first. Not edit or critique or blog about it, but let it steep. That’s when those Tygers come out.
Still, some think Blake was lucky or especially gifted. I think he was unique only in that he recognised and valued his creativity and battled to maintain the means to foster it. He worked, his entire life, to express what he needed to. He defended his vision. He argued with those who had other ideas.
Blake didn’t find something to engrave or write about in drugs like Coleridge. He didn’t find it in love or death or love of death and Classical art like Keats. It wasn’t out of some heroic conception of himself like the mad, bad and dangerous to know Lord Byron. It wasn’t for or from fame or fortune because he didn’t really have those. He just kept doing what he did. Blake pursued his art and writing, even on the day of his death.
Wordsworth, honoured by universities and paid a stipend, died as Poet Laureate, but he was worn out. Old and full of grief, he hadn’t written for years. I suspect or hope, Blake was more fulfilled and more faithful to his muse, notwithstanding his final resting place is marked only by an approximation.