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Inspiration is the act or power of exercising an elevating or stimulating influence upon the intellect or emotions; the result of such influence which quickens or stimulates; as, the inspiration of occasion, of art, etc.


Alphabetized by author.

  • Inspiration is a slender river of brightness leaping from a vast and eternal knowledge, it exceeds reason more perfectly than reason exceeds the knowledge of the senses.
  • It's lack that gives us inspiration. It's not fullness. Not ever having driven, I can write better about automobiles than the people who drive them. I have a distance here. ... Space travel is another good example. I'm never going to go to Mars but I've helped inspire, thank goodness, the people who built the rockets and sent our photographic equipment off to Mars. So it's always a lack that causes you to write that type of story.
  • I got on with the task of turning myself into a brief professional writer. The term professional is not meant to imply a high standard of commitment and attainment: it meant then, as it still does, the pursuit of a trade or calling to the end of paying the rent and buying liquor. I leave the myth of inspiration and agonised creative inaction to the amateurs. The practice of a profession entails discipline, which for me meant the production of two thousand words of fair copy every day, weekends included. I discovered that, if I started early enough, I could complete the day’s stint before the pubs opened. Or, if I could not, there was an elated period of the night after closing time, with neighbours banging on the walls to protest at the industrious clacking. Two thousand words a day means a yearly total of 730,000. Step up the rate and, without undue effort, you can reach a million. This ought to mean ten novels of 100,000 words each. This quantitative approach is not, naturally, to be approved. And because of hangovers, marital quarrels, creative deadness induced by the weather, shopping trips, summonses to meet state officials, and sheer torpid gloom, I was not able to achieve more than five and a half novels of very moderate size in that pseudo-terminal year. Still, it was very nearly E.M.Forster’s whole long life’s output.
  • Greatness is more than potential. It is the execution of that potential. Beyond the raw talent. You need the appropriate training. You need the discipline. You need the inspiration. You need the drive.
  • Inspiration is never genuine if it is known as inspiration at the time. True inspiration always steals on a person; its importance not being fully recognised for some time.
    • Samuel Butler, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912), Part XI - Cash and Credit, Genius, iii.
  • I've described my usual writing process as scrambling from peak to peak on inspiration through foggy valleys of despised logic. Inspiration is better — when you can get it.
  • If you ever have to make a choice between learning and inspiration, choose learning. It works more of the time.
  • Wherever we are, God’s in that moment, God’s speaking to us, and if we’ve just got our ears open and our antennas up, there’s no lack of inspiration. He’s not silent. We just have to be listening.
  • The inspirational value of the space program is probably of far greater importance to education than any input of dollars... A whole generation is growing up which has been attracted to the hard disciplines of science and engineering by the romance of space.
  • Totalitarian art must be a form of classicism: the state which is founded on order and subordination demands an art with a similar basis. Romantic painting, however popular, expresses the revolt of the individual. The State also requires an art of reason by which appropriate works may be produced as required. Inspiration is outside state control. The classic attitude toward subject matter — that it should be clear and unequivocal — supports the attitude of unquestioning belief. Add the fact that totalitarian art must be real enough to please the ignorant, ideal enough to commemorate a national hero, and well enough designed to present a memorable image, and one sees how perfectly The Death of Marat fills the bill. That it happens also to be a great work of art makes it dangerously misleading.
  • I always thought that inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show and get to work. If you’re going to wait a around for the clouds to open up and lightning to strike you in the brain you’re not going to make an awful lot of work.
  • When inspiration does not come, I go for a walk, go to the movie, talk to a friend, let go... The muse is bound to return again, especially if I turn my back!
    • Judy Collins, as quoted in Wise Highs: How to Thrill, Chill, & Get Away from It All Without Alcohol or Other Drugs (2006) by Alex J. Packer, p. 213.
  • I assure you no art was ever less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters; of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament — temperament is the word — I know nothing.
  • I always urged my contemporaries to look for interest and inspiration to the development and study of drawing, but they would not listen. They thought the road to salvation lay by the way of colour.
    • Edgar Degas, Quoted by Walter Sickert in "Post-Impressionism and Cubism," Pall Mall Gazette (1914-03-11). According to Sickert, Degas had said this to him in 1885.
  • There'll be what you might call a moment of inspiration – a way of seeing or feeling or remembering, an instance or a person that's made a large impression. Like the sand and the oyster, it's a creative irritant. In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so it can't have a fictional beginning.
  • Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
  • I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.
    • Albert Einstein; Cosmic Religion : With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931) by Albert Einstein, p. 97; also in Transformation : Arts, Communication, Environment (1950) by Harry Holtzman, p. 138.
  • Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
  • It is with just that hope that we welcome everything that tends to strengthen the fibre and develop the nature on more sides. When the intellect and affections are in harmony; when intellectual consciousness is calm and deep; inspiration will not be confounded with fancy.
  • What I mean by the Muse is that unimpeded clearness of the intuitive powers, which a perfectly truthful adherence to every admonition of the higher instincts would bring to a finely organized human being. It may appear as prophecy or as poesy. … and should these faculties have free play, I believe they will open new, deeper and purer sources of joyous inspiration than have as yet refreshed the earth.
    Let us be wise, and not impede the soul.
    Let her work as she will. Let us have one creative energy, one incessant revelation. Let it take what form it will, and let us not bind it by the past to man or woman, black or white.
  • Harmony exists no less in difference than in likeness, if only the same key-note govern both parts. Woman the poem, man the poet; woman the heart, man the head; such divisions are only important when they are never to be transcended. If nature is never bound down, nor the voice of inspiration stifled, that is enough.
  • Yes, Shakespeare foremost and forever (Darwin too). But also teach about the excellence of pygmy bushcraft and Fuegian survival in the world's harshest climate. Dignity and inspiration come in many guises. Would anyone choose the tinhorn patriotism of George Armstrong Custer over the eloquence of Chief Joseph in defeat?
    • Stephen Jay Gould, Eight Little Piggies (1993); "The Moral State of Tahiti—and of Darwin", p. 274.
  • Darwin grasped the philosophical bleakness with his characteristic courage. He argued that hope and morality cannot, and should not, be passively read in the construction of nature. Aesthetic and moral truths, as human concepts, must be shaped in human terms, not “discovered” in nature. We must formulate these answers for ourselves and then approach nature as a partner who can answer other kinds of questions for us—questions about the factual state of the universe, not about the meaning of human life. If we grant nature the independence of her own domain—her answers unframed in human terms—then we can grasp her exquisite beauty in a free and humble way. For then we become liberated to approach nature without the burden of an inappropriate and impossible quest for moral messages to assuage our hopes and fears. We can pay our proper respect to nature's independence and read her own ways as beauty or inspiration in our different terms.
    • Stephen Jay Gould, I Have Landed (2002); "Art Meets Science in The Heart of the Andes", p. 109.
  • He gave us his "Curves and Functions", in the form of lectures; and sometimes, even while stating his propositions, he would be seized with some mathematical inspiration, would forget pupils, notes, everything, and would rapidly dash off equation after equation, following them out with smaller and smaller chalk-marks into the remote corners of the blackboard, forsaking his delightful task only when there was literally no more space to be covered, and coming back with a sigh to his actual students. There was a great fascination about these interruptions; we were present, as it seemed, at mathematics in the making; it was like peeping into a necromancer's cell, and seeing him at work; or as if our teacher were one of the old Arabian algebraists recalled to life.
  • They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.
    • Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983) Reflections on the Human Condition (1973) Section 77.
  • Poetical composition results from two intellectual phenomena, meditation and inspiration. Meditation is a faculty ; inspiration is a gift. All men, to a certain degree, can meditate; very few are inspired. Spiritus flat ubi vult. In meditation, the spirit acts; in inspiration, it oheys ; because the first is of men, the second comes from a higher source. He who gave us this power is stronger than we. These two processes of thoughts are intimately linked in the soul of the poet. The poet invites inspiration by meditation, as the prophets raised themselves to ecstacies by prayer. That the muse should reveal herself to him, he must in some sort have passed all his material existence in repose, in silence, and in meditation. He must be isolated from external life, to enjoy in its fullness that inward life, which developes in bim a new existence; and it is only when the physical world has utterly vanished from before his eyes, that the ideal world is fully revealed to him. It seems that poetic inspiration has in it some- thing too sublime for~the common nature of man. Genius can compass its greater efforts only when the soul is released from the vulgar cares that follow it in life ; for thought cannot take its wings till it has laid aside its burden. Thence comes it, doubtless, that inspiration is born only of meditation. Among the Jews, the people whose history is so rich in mysterious symbols when the priest had built the altar, he lighted upon it an earthly flame -- and it was then only that the divine ray descended from Heaven.
    • Victor Hugo SCRAPS OF PHILOSOPHY AND CRITICISM. The New-England magazine. Volume 9, Issue 9 September 1835 [3]
  • Happy he who possesses this double power of meditation and inspiration, which is genius! Whatever may be the age on which he is, or the country -- be he born in the bosom of domestic calamities, be he thrown on a time of popular convulsions, or, what is still more to be lamented, on a period of stagnant indifference --let him trust himself to the future; for, if the present belong to other men, the future is for him. He is of the number of chosen beings for whom a day is allotted. Sooner or later, the day comes ; and it is then -- fed by sublime thought, and elevated by divine inspiration -- that he throws himself boldly before the world, with the cry of the poet upon his lips ‘Voici mon Orient: peuples levez les yeux!’
    • Victor Hugo SCRAPS OF PHILOSOPHY AND CRITICISM. The New-England magazine. Volume 9, Issue 9 September 1835 [4]
  • Let my inspiration flow, in token lines suggesting rhythm, that will not forsake me, till my tale is told and done
  • Inspiration, move me brightly, light the song with sense and color, hold away despair
  • This is Paris. And I'm an American who lives here. My name Jerry Mulligan. And I'm an ex-GI. In 1945, when the Army told me to find my own job, I stayed on and I'll tell you why. I'm a painter. All my life, that's all I've ever wanted to do. And for a painter, the Mecca of the world for study, for inspiration, and for living is here on this star called Paris. Just look at it. No wonder so many artists have come here and called it home. Brother, if you can't paint in Paris, you'd better give up and marry the boss's daughter. Back home everyone said I didn't have any talent. They might be saying the same thing over here, but it sounds better in French.
  • Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don't get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.
    • Jack London (1876 - 1916) 'Getting into Print', first published in 1903 in The Editor magazine.
      • often paraphrased; You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
  • Desire itself is an inspiration. Every man desires to do something in life.Where there is no desire no way would open out.Yet too much of desire creates problems.If we understand where to draw the limits to our ambition then we would experience a constant need to keep our inspiration alive and the desire to make something of one's life would never be ignored.
  • Everyone has a goal which appears to be great, at least to himself, and is great when deepest conviction, the innermost voice of the heart, pronounces it great. ... This voice, however, is easily drowned out, and what we thought to be inspiration may have been created by the fleeting moment and again perhaps destroyed by it. ... We must seriously ask ourselves, therefore, whether we are really inspired about a vocation, whether an inner voice approves of it, or whether the inspiration was a deception, whether that which we took as the Deity’s calling to us was self-deceit. But how else could we recognize this except by searching for the source of our inspiration?
    • Karl Marx, Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, L. Easton, trans. (1967), p. 36.
  • Everything great glitters, glitter begets ambition, and ambition can easily have caused the inspiration or what we thought to be inspiration. But reason can no longer restrain one who is lured by the fury of ambition. He tumbles where his vehement drive calls him; no longer does he choose his position, but rather chance and luster determine it.
    • Karl Marx, Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, L. Easton, trans. (1967), p. 36.
  • A breath of our inspiration
    Is the life of each generation
    A wondrous thing of our dreaming
    Unearthly, impossible seeming —
    The soldier, the king, and the peasant
    Are working together in one,
    Till our dream shall become their present,
    And their work in the world be done.
  • If you're going to make a living at this business - more importantly, if you're going to write anything that will last - you have to realise that a lot of the time, you're going to be writing without inspiration. The trick is to write just as well without it as with. Of course, you write less readily and fluently without it; but the interesting thing is to look at the private journals and letters of great writers and see how much of the time they just had to do without inspiration. Conrad, for example, groaned at the desperate emptiness of the pages he faced; and yet he managed to cover them. Amateurs think that if they were inspired all the time, they could be professionals. Professional know that if they relied on inspiration, they'd be amateurs.
  • Every culture, if its natural development is not too much affected by political restrictions, experiences a perpetual renewal of the formative urge, and out of that comes an ever growing diversity of creative activity. Every successful piece of work stirs the desire for greater perfection and deeper inspiration; each new form becomes the herald of new possibilities of development.
    • Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism (1938); Ch. 1 "Anarchism: Its Aims and Purposes".
  • My inspirations don't come from outer space, they just come to me. I have no idea why they come when they do.
  • I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled [poets] to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.
    • Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC), In "Apology," sct. 21, by Plato.
  • I believe that music can be an inspirational force in all our lives — that its eloquence and the depth of its meaning are all-important, and that all personal considerations concerning musicians and the public are relatively unimportant — that music come from the heart and returns to the heart — that music is spontaneous, impulsive expression — that its range is without limit — that music is forever growing — that music can be one element to help us build a new conception of life in which the madness and cruelty of wars will be replaced by a simple understanding of the brotherhood of man.
    Music can be all things to all men. It is like a great dynamic sun in the center of a solar system which sends out its rays and inspiration in every direction. … It is as if the heavens open and a divine voice calls. Something in our souls responds and understands. We are speaking here of the most inspired music.
    • Leopold Stokowski (born 18 April 1882) Music For All Of Us (1943);
      • also quoted as "...Music can be all things to all persons... ".
  • The past slips from our grasp. It leaves us only scattered things. The bond that united them eludes us. Our imagination usually fills in the void by making use of preconceived theories...Archaeology, then, does not supply us with certitudes, but rather with vague hypotheses. And in the shade of these hypotheses some artists are content to dream, considering them less as scientific facts than as sources of inspiration.
  • Inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists. There is, there has been, there will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It's made up of all those who've consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners — I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem that they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it's born from a continuous "I don't know."
  • While I was held prisoner, sweet inspiration educated me
    and laws were imparted to me in a speech which had no words...
  • The Cauldron of Wisdom and Inspiration must be kept boiling for a year and a day, and then the first three drops from it would impart ultimate knowledge to the one who drank them. But the rest of the liquid would be deadly poison.
    Long labored Ceridwen, roaming far to find the rare and exotic herbs she required, and so it chanced that she fell asleep on the last day of the spell. The boy Gwion was stirring the brew when three drops flew out onto his thumb, and they were scalding hot, so that he thrust it into his mouth to stop the burning. Instantly, he had the wisdom and inspiration of ages, and the first thing that occurred to him was that Ceridwen would be very angry.
  • Who knows where inspiration comes from. Perhaps it arises from desperation. Perhaps it comes from the flukes of the universe, the kindness of the muses.
    • Amy Tan, as quoted in A Small Drop of Ink : A Collection of Inspirational and Moving Quotations of the Ages (2003) by Linda Pendleton, p. 129.
  • Even the death of Friends will inspire us as much as their lives. They will leave consolation to the mourners, as the rich leave money to defray the expenses of their funerals, and their memories will be incrusted over with sublime and pleasing thoughts, as monuments of other men are overgrown with moss; for our Friends have no place in the graveyard.
  • I invented something called The Oxford Muse. The Muses were women in mythology. They did not teach or require to be worshipped, but they were a source of inspiration. They taught you how to cultivate your emotions through the different arts in order to reach a higher plane. What is lacking now, I believe, is somewhere you can get that stimulation not information, but stimulation where you can meet just that person, or find just that situation, which will give you the idea of invention, of carrying out some project which interests you, and show how it can become a project of interest to other people.

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