From the Latin “spirare” to breathe into, this arousal of creativity was once thought to be the voice of God speaking through his lowly vessel, man. Inspiration to write can spring from so many sources. But with a fickle heart. Song lyrics, bits of poetry, episodes in our lives, or others’ misfortunes and joys, any of these can start a story idea. Haven’t we all imagined a better ending to a true life story and wanted to write it down? But when a writer goes dry and the sources that once stimulated go breathless, desperation turns aspiration to dust.
I don’t feel blown into when ideas for stories are plentiful. Snippets of interviews or news items I hear or see or read about can connect with another wondering I’ve been mulling over and I find it easy to start a new story. The inspiration lives in me like a colony of bacteria. The new ideas can push earlier ones to the side or accommodate the bits that conflict by smoothing out their grainy edges. Together, they rise and double and there, that’s where the breath is, in the yeasty exposition as characters develop and conflict arises and they rush towards the story’s inevitable climax.
What else inspires me? Sometimes it’s topography. I can’t help wanting to use a new setting and its angles and planes in some kind of tale. They don’t always work out, but I enjoy noticing and taking note of my surroundings. It’s particularly satisfying when the landscape offers an opportunity to turn the tale on its head.
Unpredictable trumps unorthodox. To engage in violation of the readers’ expectations cleverly satisfies both reader and writer. Upping the ante for ultimate violence and gore, or some ridiculous contrivance of a denouement, does not. Others, I know, will disagree.
It’s true that inspiration happens by coincidence. Sometimes. It finds us, but we also seek it.
I frequently find myself actively seeking connections. I find myself thinking, “Yeah, this is like that but not so obviously.”
Some stories need to fester and so deadlines can be problematic. Some run like sprinters to the finish line and are done well before I expected. Some stories nag me in my sleep, in those moments just before waking, and prod me to keep imagining them more fully fleshed. I look. I listen. I lay a trap for the next idea by opening myself to the chance encounter. Eventually, I get the story done.
So, what inspires you?