Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative.
I have had days – and plenty of ’em! – when I have felt particularly unimaginative, pedestrian, and even downright spiritless. Sometimes I call it ‘writer’s block.’ Sometimes I just cave in and describe it as depression. It’s easy to blame my lack of creativity on outside sources. What is not so easy is finding a way to open myself to the boundless sources of inspiration that surround me.
Alan Baxter gave some excellent pictorial examples in his article, Real World Inspiration For Fantasy and Horror:
They say a picture says a thousand words. Which is annoying, but largely true. After all, it really depends on the picture, as some would struggle to say a sentence and others could illustrate a novel. But I digress. No great analogy stands up to close criticism. I saw some pictures today that simply blew me away and made me realise that when we’re writing genre fiction, trying to create incredible “other” worlds or horrific scenarios, it doesn’t all have to come from our imaginations. There is so much wonder in this world that we have enormous reserves of the fantastic all around us to draw on.
Leo Babauta observes that “inspiration is not just a desirable thing, it’s an integral part of the writing process. Every writer needs inspiration to produce inspired writing. And sometimes, it can come from the unlikeliest sources.”Then he lists a wonderful, whopping 31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing.
And then there’s Gene Lempp, who has a fantastic series of articles called “Designing From Bones” about using archaeology and the artifacts of human history to find and design stories.
“Our ancestors loved to personify beasts, giving them powerful and legendary forms. They whispered about some over dinner out of fear and reverence. Others they lauded as heroic and built statuary to. These creatures would be invoked to frighten the disgruntled towards compliance, to motivate warriors into battle and to ensure children were good (and ate their vegetables when told).”
I read them – and then I ran and told my husband that I am confiscating all his back-issues of National Geographic to use as reference sources. All of ’em.
I may need a newer, bigger library.
I also need to learn to type faster, because those posts turned into an artesian well of inspiration. (Thank you, Gene! And moremoremore, please, Gene!)
One of my big inspirational things is music, whether I’m writing, house-cleaning, doing the bills, exercising, gardening, driving… Ros Gemmell has a blog post in which she lists music that might have come out of my CD cabinet. She has such good taste! A little while ago I turned on all of my Secret Garden CDs, trying to calm myself and uplift my spirits. It helped a lot, and pretty soon I was envisioning some scenes for two of my very favorite characters.
It was a twofer!
I also find reading or watching TV and movies inspirational. Not only do I learn about structure that way, but I often see or hear something that makes ideas click. Not copying, mind you! New ideas generated from little seeds! Eavesdropping on conversations is good, too, and my hubby and I sometimes play a fun game at the mall. It’s best with treats, of course, but we sit ourselves down where we can watch folks, and then make up occupations and secret lives for them. The more outrageous, the better.
When I am stuck trying to work through a particular scene, I turn to mundane tasks. Ironing, mopping, dish-washing, gardening and showering provide all kinds of quality time for ruminating. (You’d think my house and garden would be immaculate, but noooo…) I find that sometimes I have to make my hands busy in order to let my brain relax and thus admit the pretty little streams of inspiration.
You can bet I am going to try more of these ideas I’ve discovered. What do you like to do to get that ol’ creativity in gear? How do you get through those exasperating times when it feels like your bucket is empty? I’d love to hear your ideas. Talk to me!