Finding Inspiring Women in Art

The Brontë Sisters

Inspiration is the starting point of our career

As a writer, I have always been inspired by the female writers who paved the way for me in history.

For many people who work in the creative industry—be it as a writer, a fashion designer, an artist, or a magazine editor—inspiration is the starting point of the wonderful parts of our career. Without inspiration, we are faced with a blank page, a bare canvas, an empty screen. But with inspiration, we can fill the pages of our notebooks, Ultrabooks, and iPads with beautiful images and magical words. We can write captivating novels, create breath-taking works of art, design incredible clothing, and conceive stunning architecture to offer the world. So where does this inspiration come from?

First, let’s look at what inspiration actually is. According to the dictionary, inspiration is “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative” or “a sudden brilliant or timely idea”. In short, inspiration starts in the mind—when a switch is turned on in our brains—and it causes us to create something.

Often, what flicks this switch is other people and their creations. We read a stimulating book, see an emotive piece of art, watch an exhilarating film, or wear sensational clothing. Other people’s creations turn on the switch in our minds, making us want to create something too and offer it to the world. Then, it may inspire others to do the same.

In this way, inspiration can be seen as an infinite loop. An individual creates something—another individual is inspired by the creation—they too create something—another individual is inspired by the second creation—they also create something, and so on. When you think about it, all of the times you’ve been inspired in your life, where did that inspiration spark from? As a child, who inspired you to pursue your chosen career?

As a writer, I have always been inspired by the female writers who paved the way for me in history. Reading the words of the Brontë sisters inspired me to write. The Brontë sisters—Emily, Charlotte, and Anne—were born in early 1800’s England, at a time when writing was not for women. What’s more, they weren’t born into fortunate circumstances. Their father was a village clergyman, and their mother died when they were very young. Their childhood was isolated, and unable to afford proper education, they attended a “charity school” where health conditions were so poor that their two elder sisters died.

Despite their difficult circumstances in life, the sisters began writing at a young age, inspired by the works of other writers such as Byron. In 1846, they published a volume of poetry, which they paid for themselves. Since writing poetry was considered “a man’s job”, they published under male pseudonyms. The poetry book only sold three copies.

Unfazed, the sisters continued writing in secret at night, and each published a novel under their pseudonyms in 1947—Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, and Anne’s Agnes Grey. Charlotte went on to publish more novels and Anne one more. Charlotte gained some fame for Jane Eyre. However, life in their village was not easy, with a lack of sanitation and hygiene, and the sisters died aged 29, 30, and 38. Their brother Branwell became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and died aged 31. Of the three sisters, only Charlotte married, and she died just a year later.

The Brontë sisters did not live ideal lives, especially to become renowned novelists. Yet, their tenacity to write when it was not a suitable profession for women, and when they were not highly educated, provides great inspiration for budding writers. Despite being unknown in her lifetime, Emily is now celebrated at the pinnacle of the English literary canon. Their writing changed the face of English literature and inspired countless others to put pen to paper.

So, when you’re struggling for inspiration, have writer’s block, or are staring at a blank sketchbook page—look around you. Think about those who lit the path before you and who are creating inspirational things right now. Read books, go to an art gallery, a fashion show, or the cinema. Immerse yourself in the creations of other people. Help light the path of creation, and your creations might inspire others.