Few writers are as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates, and over at the New York Review of Books, she masterfully tackles the concept of inspiration throughout an impressive span of literary history, covering Plato, Dickinson, Joyce, Woolf, James. Her take? The chase for inspiration is a battle for survival.
“Inspiration” is an elusive term. We all want to be “inspired” if the consequence is something original and worthwhile; we would even consent to be “haunted”—“obsessed”—if the consequence were significant. For all writers dread what Emily Dickinson calls “Zero at the Bone”—the dead zone from which inspiration has fled.