My freshman year in college, my roommate and I both were prospective English majors and writers/journalists. She had a lot more experience than me, however: more preparation for college-level study of literature, and a better idea about how to write. One day she came back to the room and announced that, after having struggled to find a topic for an essay, she was inspired. Sounded reasonable to me. But, some time later, I tried the same thing on a guy who lived in the same dorm as us, down the hall. It was the first snowfall of the year, my first snowfall in New York, and I had gone for a walk down Broadway to get a sandwich at Mama Joy’s, and was when I came back, I told him, “inspired.” His reaction was scorn. “Inspired? What does that mean?” I was tongue-tied; I didn’t know what inspired really meant, or why it was a good thing with reference to essay-writing. Since then, I’ve been leery of the word.
John Holbo over at Crooked Timber isn’t afraid of it, though, apparently. And he’s a philosophy professor, so he should know. He’s also got a good post about why the conservative arguments against health care reform are silly.