• Stephanie Koetsier

Inspiration & Misanthropy

Imagine this: you sit down in your creative writing class for the very first time, and the first thing you are told is this: inspiration doesn't exist. How would you respond?

Well, I can tell you how my class responded - not well.

People were outraged at the idea. I remember the sideway glances around the room, and the ensuing conversations afterward. Everyone sharing their own little anecdotes about how their novel or poetry collection first came to them. Some brave people did challenge the tutor - to no avail obviously. That was a really important day, I think, in the creative writing class, because it made a lot of people actually doubt our tutors. How could they say there was no such thing as inspiration?

Looking back, I too got caught up. I was adamant - inspiration does exist, of course it does. How could they possibly believe there is no such thing as inspiration? You've got to be writing for something or else what's the point? There has to be a lesson or some theme you want to address. For one, my novel has been inspired by many things, and over many years. But now, with the advantage of hindsight, I see my tutor's point.

Perhaps, and ironically worded wrong, the idea was simple. You've got to have a routine. They weren't saying that inspiration isn't real, exactly - but that inspiration is nothing if you don't have the discipline to back it up and turn it into something. You've got to sit at your desk every day, even if you don't feel like it, even if your mood isn't right, and write. Many famous writers preach this fact, Stephen King being the one that comes to mind first. If you leave your writing up to pure inspiration, you will never get anything done.

That's what I'm taking from it, anyway.

For myself, I believe in both. I think initially that yes, inspiration does exist, and it is the most crucial part of the writing process. You have to be writing about something you're passionate about for that to translate over into good fiction. However, you also need to discipline the fun. Set a routine, hold yourself accountable. Yeah, you might write shockingly that day - but that's what editing's for. Writing often keeps you involved in your own story and sticks it in the back of your mind. For me, my book is always ticking away in the back of my head. I'll see something or read about something or encounter an interaction that I decide would make a great addition to my story. And there again, is the inspiration. So I guess what I'm saying here is, they go hand in hand. I disagree with the notion that inspiration doesn't exist, but I do understand our tutor's theory behind it. You've got to be disciplined and have a routine. So really, the two co-exist. That's what I believe anyway.

Now on this blog, I want to document my writing journey. As you will all be very aware by now, I am writing a novel, and have been doing so for some time. But I've never really discussed much about it. Until now. I've decided that it may be quite fun to discuss some of the things that have inspired my little passion project.

And this is where misanthropy comes in.

I had never even heard of misanthropy until I went to university. Most of my modules surrounded Victorian literature, and misanthropy is basically the undertone in most if not all of them. To summarise its idea in its most basic terms, it is the hatred of mankind.

Cheery, I know.

Now, I've always thought of myself as a rather positive person. I genuinely believe that there is good in every day, and that the world is magical if you actually pay attention to it. So this idea of misanthropy really bothered me.

It really came to a head for me when we studied Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. And for those of you who have only seen the film, Gulliver actually travels to four different worlds, not just two. It's this last world, the one that doesn't feature in the film, that really explores the theme of misanthropy.

He goes to the land of intelligent horses.

Or Houyhnhnms, as they are known in the book (yes, I had to look up the spelling, then had to copy and paste said spelling because who on Earth is remembering that?)

Gulliver basically ends the novel finding his wife and all other humans back home utterly repulsive due to his travels, and decides to live out his days with the intelligent horses instead. (Jonathan Swift was a satirist so if you're looking for a funny look at the hatred of mankind then here you go and you're welcome.)

But of course it's not just this book. As I progressed through my university career, I found misanthropy cropping up time and time again, in almost every book we read. It was really interesting to delve into it more, but on the other side I could not stop thinking - why are we as humans so prone to hating ourselves and our race? Or would be willing be a better word?

Yes there is bad, but there is also so much good. So I decided years ago in that class that my novel wasn't going to fall into that. I was going to write about good people, and focus on the good that there is to see in the world. I don't know about anyone else, but I for one am tired of doom and gloom (although paradoxically, one of my favourite genres is dystopian fiction so make of that what you will.)

I am going to write a few more blog posts about my other inspirations, but this the main one for me. I want my books to be a happy place for people, and I want them to encourage everyone to try and look at the world differently. What is the point in going through life and hating everything and everyone you see? We are all here for such a short time, it seems like such a waste, especially when there's such an abundance of good to discover and praise.

If you've had a good peruse of my newly designed website, then you might have noticed at the bottom of my Home page there is a slideshow of some quotes that inspire me. One in particular is "The Earth has music for those who listen". I really do believe that the world is amazing, fascinating and well - magical. And people really miss out so much because they don't just look around them or actually take a second to just stop and listen. If this year has taught us anything, it's that we all need to pause, take a breather and just - be. I'm saying all this as though I practise it all the time and it's so far from the case, but I really want to try from now on.

It's also why I love going out and exploring Scotland so much - no matter where I go, I've always found something awe-inspiring. That's why it's the backdrop of my book - but more on that later.

So, these writing posts are always going to be a bit of a ramble from me, just talking about what I want and what inspires me. In both life and on here, I often go off on wee tangents, but I love this stuff so much I could just talk about it for hours. I find the idea of misanthropy fascinating. After all, it's a theme that has survived and woven itself through literature for decades now. But, and I'm sure we can all agree, this year especially is the time to focus on good places and good people, and be inspired to be good and do good ourselves. I'm not saying let's rid literature of misanthropy altogether - it holds us accountable and makes us look at ourselves and our relations with that around us. But, let's start to bring that same attention to all the good of human nature and the world - there's a lot more out there than you think.

Thanks for reading as always!

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