Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Combining Sources of Inspiration

Ozymandias by Percy Shelley isn't just a great poem. It's also an encouraging example of how a writer can find inspiration from everyday sources, if he can combine them in a creative way.

If you know the history of this poem, you'll know that one of Shelley's key inspirations was the British Museum's recently acquired statue of Ramses II.

Today, you can see important statues and historical artifacts in any city. Go see them, and see what ideas they inspire in you.

Shelley also drew inspiration from the current events of his day. Just a year before the publication of Ozymandias, Napoleon suffered his final military defeat at Waterloo, inspiring Shelley to make his poem into a metaphor for the French emperor's hubris.

There is certainly no shortage of examples of hubris among our leaders today. Instead of shaking your fist as your government, why not let it inspire you?

Finally, Shelley wrote this poem in a competition with his friend and fellow poet Horace Smith. Shelley won, beating Smith to publication by a month.

Art. Current events. And a good-natured contest between friends. Is there anything special about these three things? Not really. And yet they combined to inspire one of the greatest poems in the English language.

What combination of inspirations can you find to help you create great writing?
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.