Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Minx: On Inspiration

The question apparently asked most often of authors is “Where do you get your inspiration?” I can only assume it’s non-writers asking because for me that’s kind of like asking “how do you breathe?” Maybe it’s not just coincidence that another term for the act of breathing is ‘inspiration’.

For me, ideas are everywhere. I have so many of them bombarding me all the time that all I can do is scribble them down and file them away. They come to me in my dreams, from articles I read, from chatting to people. I sometimes wish I could hire a ghostwriter to do the slog work and write them all so I can just play around with new story ideas. Sadly, that’s not going to happen (and maybe just as well, cos who knows what another writer would do with my beloved story!) so I just add them to the ever-growing queue of stories waiting to be written.

The best moments for inspiration to strike are those moments when I'm doing something completely mindless, like bathing or commuting to work. While I drive, my mind wanders and ideas come at me out of the blue. Often a snatch of music, or something my mind has been processing, will develop into a story as I sit bumper-to-bumper. This morning was one of those moments. I had Thirty Seconds to Mars playing in the car, and the lines of one song (“Mary was a different girl / Had a thing for astronauts / Mary was the type of girl / She always liked to play a lot”) set a chain reaction going in my head. By the time I’d arrived at my office I’d threshed out a short historical novella set in a Victorian bordello with an intricate suspense sub-plot. How on earth did my mind make the leap from a song about Mary who loves astronauts to Victorian subterfuge? I don’t have a clue!

So wondering if any research has been done into how inspiration works, I googled it. Clearly I’m not alone as the topic pops up as an automatic prompt on Google! I was looking for a scientific explanation, but what I got were the following thought-provoking answers.

It is just stream of consciousness from the light within.
[Source: Yahoo Answers]

The word “inspiration” has its first origins in the Greek word θεοπνευστος, which reads theopneustos and translates into “God-breathed.” In artistic composition inspiration refers to an unconscious and irrational burst of creativity. In both cases - spiritual and artistic - inspiration has something to do with the supernatural, it has a connection with the divine, it is a state of being in-spirit with something higher than ourselves.

Inspiration appears when your actions (work) are aligned with your life’s purpose. How do you know when that happens? When you love your work so much that you would do it for free, just because you enjoy the process of working.
[Source: Project Armannd]

I am fascinated to know your thoughts and opinions. How does the inspiration process work for you? When and where do you get your story ideas? And how do you think inspiration works?

I’ll leave you with these beautiful words from poet and author Margaret Sangster:  
Inspiration is a fragile thing... just a breeze, touching the green foliage of a city park, just a whisper from the soul of a friend. Just a line of verse clipped from some book. Inspiration... who can say where it is born, and why it leaves us? Who can tell the reasons for its being or not being? Only this... I can think. Inspiration comes from the Heart of Heaven to give the lift of wings, and the breath of divine music to those of us who are earthbound.


Rachel Lyndhurst said...

Thirty Seconds to Mars are brill aren't they? Music is a great source of inspiration for me, in fact the manuscript acquired by Embrace recently was inspired by a song I fell in love with last year: Rooftops and Invitations by Dashboard Confessional. The only problem is getting a non stop supply of new tunes I find (greedy, I know!).

Have you checked out Biffy Clyro and The Hours? More great lyrics for inspirational purposes I reckon!

It's going to sound a bit like something from a cheesy CV but reading a newspaper every day is invaluable. My ideas boxes are stuffed with articles and pictures that are just waiting to be brought to life. And, yes, certain writerly bits of the house do look a bit like landfill as a consequence!

Dreams can be quite useful as well, but that does involve getting to sleep first unfortunately!

Lots of love,


Sally Clements said...

Lovely post, Romy. As you know I'm primarily a pastster, and when I get into a story, I have continuous inspiration on 'what happens next' which sometimes can be really startling. In one of my historic crime novels, I dreamed of a man working in a mine on Vesuvius, and woke up in the middle of the night to jot down details. When I later researched it, I found a family working there in the 1750's, with the same surname...

Kat said...

I love the idea of literally dreaming up a story, who does that never happen to me? My dreams are very mundane - all of my teeth dropped out last night, which was actually more of a nightmare! I guess it must mean something though?

I find inspiration all over the place when I'm awake. :o)
Sometimes it's a person, other times a newspaper story or a TV show ( sawyer, anyone?)
Photo's too - I have a gorgeous picture of Russell Brand which is odd, because mostly I find him unappealing and very un-hero like. But this photo really got the cogs whirring, and the beginnings of a new story came just from looking at that.
Once you switch your brain into writers mode, inspiration really is everywhere isn't it?

Lorraine said...

Great post Romy :-)
I find you can get great ideas just from talking to people and getting their life stories.

Maya Blake said...

It's a funny thing about dreams, isn't it? My ideas come to me somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, when the mind is suspended between consciousnesses (word?) :) I've plotted 3 stories so far when inspiration struck at that time. My only complaint? I wish it didn't take HOURS! I'm not very good at lying still and letting the mind do it's work, lol!

Maisey said...

All of my dream inspiration turns out to be total junk when I wake up..LOL.

Great post, Romy!

I think for most writers, the ideas are the easy part. It's writing them down and actually finishing the book that gets you!

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Terrific post, Romy.