As an author, one of the questions I’m asked quite often is: “where does your inspiration come from?” Frankly, I find that perplexing, even more so when it comes from another writer. I was speaking with a talented graphic artist the other day. She asked me, “don’t you hate it when people want to know where your inspiration comes from? That’s so ridiculous. It would be more appropriate to ask where doesn’t your inspiration come from?”
I’d always dismissed the question: scoffed at it, then indignantly deleted it whenever I saw it come up in writers’ discussion group emails. It wasn’t until this graphic artist rephrased the question to me that I realized that it’s not about being a writer – it’s about being creative.
Inspiration can come from anything and everything: a line in a song, three arctic hares playing in my yard, the mist rising over the mountains, or even a paper cut. One merely has to be open to the ideas these things can spark.
Revenge is always inspiring. Torturing, humiliating and killing someone who wronged you is great therapy – well, on paper, of course. Justice is the most noble of inspiration – bringing an important cause or issue to the attention of the masses through your writing. Paying tribute or homage – representing someone or something with passion is never a bad thing either. In February 2010, I went to the Vancouver Olympics as a spectator to catch a couple of hockey games. I never dreamed that the spirit of the event would suck me in, sweep me off my feet and blow my mind. When I returned home, the effects of it came with me, and within a couple of weeks I decided it was an experience I wanted to share with the world. So I made it the backdrop for my latest suspense novel – figuring out how to work it in spawned an entire story in and of itself. Voila, there was my new book.
Proof positive: one never knows what will trigger inspiration.
If you mean ‘physically’ where does my inspiration happen – well, the bathroom. No, I’m not being crass. Think about it. When you’re brushing your teeth or in the shower, it’s one of the few instances when you’re actually taking time for yourself. Your mind isn’t distracted by your boss, television, spousal-type-unit or chores. It’s just you doing things that don’t require concentration. So what better time is there to set your mind free and allow those literary epiphanies to find you? Nearly every one of the plot twists or surprise endings I’ve come up with in the past year has come to me then.
Real life supplies us with plenty of ammunition for our arsenal of ideas. Look at the recent news story about exploding watermelons in China (not kidding), the WikiLeaks drama, and the now famous ‘kissing couple’ during the Vancouver riots. Those have all the makings for a science fiction, suspense, or romance novel, respectively. You can write a story about anything if the spirit moves you.
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This post originally appeared on Larry Matthews’ Blog in June 2011.
15 thoughts on “Inspiration? Phooey.”
Great article, K.S.! "Proof positive: one never knows what will trigger inspiration."
Thanks, Marcia! So many ideas, so little time, eh? 🙂
I wonder if those exploding watermelons are anything like the exploding pumpkins my parents neighbors used to mysteriously experience.
Yeah, Christopher, unless your parents' neighbors were screwing around with genetically modified seeds, I don't think so. And I'm not making this sh*t up – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-1342…
Too true. Always wondered what had happened to those people who were "waiting for the Muse to call" before writing anything. If you have an imagination, or the ability to say, "What if?" You don't need no stinkin' Muses.
I love it, Arline! 🙂
Great post. Most of my inspiration comes from my….oooh a bird….
Mine is a purple llama named Hector. Was I not supposed to say that out loud? 😉
So true. Where doesn't it come from?
Exactly. I'm so glad to be surrounded by creative people now! 🙂
I've been inspired after watching hockey, too.
Lois, I have no idea what you mean. Heh. Just kidding. I will admit, it is the PASSION and the intensity of the players that truly inspire me. In fact, my dedication in The Kiss of Night is: "To the Great Number 8: Whose passion and intensity are amazing and inspiring." And that book had nothing to do with hockey. 😀
Luckily, sport isn't the only inspiring stuff, otherwise I'd never have written a word.
Those who have to ask about inspiration have no idea how it works. People who work with words, such as lyricists, poets, authors, and speech writers, know how words work. You could be completely closed in and never experience much, and write perfectly lyrical stuff that ignites from a sentence in someone else's work that lifts you right out of your seat.
Annie Proulx writes such sentences, and so does Michael Oondatje. They use words in such a… a… an inspiring way. You read their books and are blown away by the way they manipulate language. You want to do it yourself. You look at your own stuff and find it poor. You wonder and twist words and sentences until a scene you write is lit up from the inside.
It's not just about telling stories, see? It's about the inspired use of language, that makes a story seem inspired. THEN they ask … where does that come from?
SPRINGBOARDS: ANOTHER ARS POETICA
Something someone would throw away:
an unspoked umbrella, ruptured tire,
a dimestore dress bought for a doll
or for disguise in an improper moment.
Even a rag, stray cat, panhandler, false lover.
It's the momentness of the object
and all that life before you picked it up
or out, mere cast off until you
retrieved it despite no face values.
And beyond the story inside
how — in an unintended hour
caught in a summer thunderstorm
in a fast food shop with radio blaring
the odor of popcorn and fries —
how you rewrite it.
[published in anthology Clutter: A Mess Or A Creative Means of Filing?
Andrew Mountain Press, 1998;
In The Folds of Abandoned Clothes: Thrift Shop Poems,
Carismatic Press, copyright Elisavietta Ritchie 2000.]
Snippets of news in the paper or on TV, watching kids and parents, university coffee shops ……on line discussions, blogs, …..
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