Jacques Maritain on Inspiration…

maritain_jacquesFrench Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain wrote extensively about art and poetry. His thinking and writing on such matters is always profound, born of personal experience coupled with learned philosophical reflection. For some, Maritain makes for a difficult read, but he is worth the struggle; one doesn’t have to venture too far in any of his work to find beautifully worded pearls of wisdom. This little nugget, taken from Maritain’s Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, should strike a chord with any writer who has ever sought after and experienced the mysterious, energising encounter we call ‘inspiration’…


“Inspiration is natural, but neither continuous nor frequent as a rule. Furthermore, it takes on all sorts of forms and disguises. It may come in happiness and exaltation, it may come in distress and misery; it may force itself on the poet only as a pang of conscience, obliging him to struggle again and again with the deficiencies of expression. Sometimes inspiration remains unperceived when it is especially deep and steady. Sometimes it must be paid for by hard labor and thankless digging in an arid soil.”


What has been your experience of inspiration? How and where do you seek it? Does it always (or even primarily) strike with the overwelming force of a swelling tide, carrying you along where it will? Or is it more like a natural spring, quietly bubbling up from within? How do you cope, when inspiration seems elusive?

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