What Makes A Writer - Imagination, Intelligence or Inspiration?

Written by: Shilpa Samant

This rhetorical question has as many valid answers as the number of thoughts it provokes. You can say ‘to each, their own’. The answer revolves around the three I’s in different proportions depending primarily upon people’s sun-sign that shall decide their personal traits and secondly, their own characterization of themselves as writers. Yes. That’s the truth. One’s perception on writing depends on one’s perception on seeing himself/herself with a scribbled note wondering how to put words together to form a mosaic. Though I am an extremist, writing is one field I am most liberal about. This is my viewpoint on facing the three defining I’s in writing, especially freelance - Imagination, Intelligence and Inspiration.


To a few, writing is an idea or imagination (yes, I meaningfully include another parameter, another ‘I’). You need a thought to write about and for that mere shred of a thought you need to be meticulously observant. But as the great Einstein once quoted ‘Logic takes you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere’, I choose to blindly believe in him. Imagination is that power one has which determines his/her ability to rise above the mundane, to look beyond the obvious and to surrender to dreams. I am always tagged as a day dreamer by my friends and family. Staring at someone like staring into nothingness usually is my style of allowing my mind to wander free grazing on unbelievable thoughts and undoable tasks. Yes – I am not looking at you, I am looking through you! How did this start? Well, nothing exclusive, to be frank. Interpreting various cloud formations with friends as toddlers was my best teacher, apart from staring at old walls in the house and trying to decipher the hidden codes of black patches to unknown treasury. Any kid with an Enid Blyton or Sherlock Holmes collection will superimpose on this thought. A forlorn spotty old mark can actually resemble the Queen’s palace if you look in closely with an open mind. Yes – an open mind is a necessity for writing. The moment there is a block, you jerk back on your harmonious train of bewildering ideas. So, that’s the first ‘I’ for you – imagination. Let the ideas flow, no matter how crazy, no matter how weird! Every genius has a touch of insanity.


The most misunderstood virtue. For the mundane, writing is for those who follow literature and have a good command over their chosen language which essentially includes good vocabulary, good grammar and great sentence formation ability. True - But to a very minute extent. Intelligence truly lies in how well one can pen down those amazing thoughts borne in the mind without losing their innocence and value. That’s true intelligence of a writer. Exotic words and marvelous vocabulary may at times not be as effective in moving your soul as are simple words when written with honest conviction and total surrender to one’s thoughts. After all, writing is all about making a difference in the reader’s life, no matter how small. As an inquisitive kid I had once asked my father the most important thing in life and he had an instant reply for me – do what you want to, not what your neighbor does. I take this is as my mantra for writing as well. Write what you want to share with the world, not what the world wants you to share. Subtle, yet very difficult to differentiate and inculcate. It’s as simple as the distinction between Peter Keating and Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s classic Fountainhead for those who believe in philosophy.

There is a minute innuendo of doubt in this which revolves around the fact of interpretation by the reader. Now that is something no writer should worry about unless he/she wishes to die of a mind gone haywire. My first poem submission at the age of 10 in school was on a ‘candle’. It had won an award and I carried the glory up my sleeve like a vain kid. When I recited my poem to my father he appreciated the fact that I had compared the candle with life. I was upset and moved on to recite the poem to my mother. She loved it too, particularly the fact that I had related the candle to be a soldier. This left me confused and exasperated. I had no intention of comparing the candle in my poem with life or any soldier. While penning down my innocent thoughts I had been thinking of my birthday cake! Finally after re-reading my poem from their point of view I understood what my parents meant. One interprets according to one’s choice and that is as variable as can be. The realization that a few words here and there could actually mean so much to different people listed up as a better accolade than any other! So to sum it up, a writer’s intention is purely presenting his/her thoughts and imaginative ideas to the best of his potential. Their interpretation is a mutually exclusive event based on the reader’s interest.


Now this is my favorite part – the part that makes each writer a special entity. ‘What inspires you?’ is one question that cannot be just defined by an ‘eureka’! Till now I have been only blabbering about the mind-work, it’s time to face the real challenge in writing – the heart. One has to write with the heart. It is as plain and straightforward as one can take. It’s just a matter of a nanosecond for something or someone to pluck the strings in your heart and inspire you to do the impossible. When I hear great writers speak about their moments of inspiration, I am left with just one emotion- awe, undying awe. An inspiration can be anything from the dew drops tenderly resting on the edge of a leaf to elephants spraying water to an old pen lying under a dusty table. You just have to find it and it is something only you can do. Once you find that passion for something, the rest just follows. I remember getting up at wee hours and scribbling illegitimate words on crumpled notepapers, staring at sunrise and feeling a sense of hope being filled in my heart, all those feelings and emotions which led me to think I had lost it actually were my moments of inspiration for after every such incident I found myself writing away for hours at length. To write you need to be inspired by passion!

This is my take on writing. I don’t take pride to be a very good writer nor do I claim to touch hearts. But there is one thing I am very sure of – writing gives me immense pleasure from within. The process of bringing all my thoughts alive gives me a sense of living. It makes me forget the night and day. My mind and heart are at total peace (for once!!) and that is worth everything in the world. I guess at times it transforms from a voluntary act to an involuntary one and I am just a medium between my imagination, my intelligence and my inspiration. Probably that’s why I fear of having a short term memory as when I read my own poems or stories again, there are times I doubt if I am truly the one who had written them in the first place!

As John Donne culminated the emotions of all writers and quoted - For me, writing is exploration; and most of the time, I'm surprised where the journey takes me!  

To all those aspiring writers –kudos!!

About the author:

Shilpa Samant is an aspiring writer and poet from Mumbai and she defines ‘writing’ as her ‘passion in life’. She created her own blog (shilpasamant@wordpress.com) to share her ideas and connect with other bloggers. A true Aries, she loves to take life as it comes!

1 comment:

  1. Dear shilpa,

    Great article. ...it just sums up everything so beautifully. 

    Will definitely be checking your blog too.

    Thanks for the simple and straightforward words. As a fellow writer, it liberates me from my doubts and reteriates that I am right when I believe that good writing always comes from the heart and the mind just follows. 

    The simply put concept of 3 I's is just perfect. 

    Thanks a lot.

    It made my morning!


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