Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Act of Creation: Inspirational Sources

I read a fascinating post today on So Many Books about the question so often asked by avid readers and aspiring writers alike: "Where do you get your ideas?"

It's a natural question to ask, but it can be just as hard for some authors to answer this as it is to come up with the "elevator speech." My bio page (on the right there) goes into some detail about my inspirations for my current works in progress, but that's no elevator speech. Which got me to thinking what it is about this query that bothers everybody so much.

The simple, semi-redundant answer to "where I get my ideas" is: I get them from my head. Because I'm creative. It's in my nature to be observant, thoughtful, and reflective. I also have a knack for stringing words together, because I've been doing it so long and make it a regular habit. To read the query in an unkind way, asking someone where they get their ideas is another way of saying "I have no ideas of my own, and I don't know why." Some people are creative. Some people are not. It's wiring in the brain that causes this, and is not a personal affront to people who can't imagine or tell stories, the same way it's not an affront to the large majority of people who can't draw beyond a kindergartner's level, or those who become nauseous at the sight of the formulae of an astrophysicist. It takes a certain kind of brain function, coupled with practice, instruction, and discipline.

The same is true of writing. There are multiple skill sets at work here: the ability to research (possibly), deep reading (to understand themes of other authors and engage with them in your own work), understanding narrative (plot, narrative tension, setting, character, etc. etc. etc.) the actual writing (technicalities like grammar and sentence construction, poetic ability, vocabulary, mood), an imagination, an understanding of tropes and how to bend them, just enough to be new but not totally out there...and the list goes on and on.

So again: Where do I get my ideas?
1. From what I read: I see divergent storylines, or ways to fulfill my anticipation if the actual writing did not. I also absorb character types, environmental description, the setting of mood, and dialogue patterns.
It was so thoughtful of someone
to take such a pretty picture of me ;)

2. From what I see and hear: my stories are shot in full trillion-dollar color in my head-then I find the words to describe what I see in my mind's eye. A collection of movie aesthetics, sounds, actor mannerisms, lighting, framing, perspective. Inspiration has come from tense strains in music-like the theatrical accompaniment of a musical movement. It promotes mood production and emotion.

3. From what I've experienced: Places I've been have given me plenty of inspiration- places that speak of the past, or promise the future. Where I've traveled. The activities I participate in. Everyday circumstances and practicalities.

4. From daydreaming: experimenting with my characters, allowing them multiple possibilities to understand behavior, predictability, authenticity.

To summarize: if you're looking for inspiration, some things you can do that might help you: Reading, Writing, Observing, Living, and Dreaming.
There. I've given you the keys to the universe. Use wisely.


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