Yesterday I was browsing Reddit when I came across a blog called “Get Me Writing“. The site is run by Matt Roberts (aside from finding his twitter account I can’t find much information on him). On his site there is an article titled “Influence Vs. Inspiration” by a poster named Craig. In it he states,
…I’m making positive and negative distinctions here. Influence being negative, Inspiration being positive. But over the past month or so, this is how I have come to regard the two. Influence can be insidious… – Craig
He proceeds to make points that put these two at odds with one another– painting Influence as a bad guy.
I just can’t get behind that. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Influence and Inspiration are not two sides of a coin. Rather, I see them as a Conductor (Influence) and the sheet music (Inspiration). It is a strange analogy, but follow me for a moment. Influence is something that molds you as an artist over time. It shifts and moves you in a particular direction. Conducting (see what I did there) you to an end. It sees the overall picture, even if you don’t.
Inspiration, your sheet music, is that instant burst of creativity. It compels and drives you note by note; moment by moment. And, it is Influence that determines how you interpret that Inspiration. Without one the other is flat– practically useless.
However, that does not mean Influence and Inspiration can’t be bad. Having too much influence from a single source is when things can start to go wrong. If you only ever work with one conductor, or ever learn to play one sheet of music you will stagnate as an artist. To leave the analogy behind. With only one influence, or only one source of inspiration, you cannot move forward as a writer.
At this point I think we can all find the humor (irony?) of this post itself. I was inspired by Craig to write an article on the same subject. But, it is through my influences that have led me to a different opinion than him.
In conclusion, take in as much as you can. I have seen the advice of “read every day”; but I want to encourage you to take it a step further. Read, write, watch a movie, watch some TV, play a video game, draw, paint, do as many different kinds of art as you can. You’ll find yourself being influenced and inspired over and over again.