A writer's inspiration has boundless sources, everything from dreams to doing laundry. What makes the difference is how that inspiration gets put to use.
Poet Doris Henderson, author of What Gets Lost, talks about her inspiration and how she uses it. Note the eloquent language of her explanations.
AA: What inspires you as a poet, and how do you put that to use?
DH: Dreams are a wonderful source of inspiration. A woman is drowning, and calling my name. I can't see her in the evening dusk. The water is terribly cold. I strain, I wait, then suddenly the calling stops, and I am alone. "Would you have plunged into that icy water if you had seen her, just glimpsed her? Would she have pulled you under? You walk away, and no one calls your name." It's not necessary to recall every detail of the dream. And you can change portions of it to make the story more effective. The important thing is how the dream made you feel. This is what you try to recapture.
AA: Is there a way to hone the ability to put inspiration to use?
DH: There is the "free write." Write in a notebook every day for ten minutes or so. Write quickly, whatever comes to mind. Do not censor yourself! You will discover thoughts and feelings you didn't know you had: "I wish to be a mountain lion in my next life. A lazy one." These pages can be a source of new poems, or they can just be "warm-up" exercises. Either way, you get the creative juices flowing. It may take many revisions to refine the poem, but the kernel of it is there.
Visit Doris Henderson at Antrim House Books. Also visit the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, for ways to develop your creativity. Also visit The Connecticut Poetry Society.