Inspiration: is it hard sweat or divination from the Gods

This is a re-published post.

Inspiration comes from hard slog, facing up to the clean white paper/screen or does it? Where do you get that first spark from? And is the written piece outsourced from some great divination?

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London

“I see something happen, read or hear about an event, and the first question that pops into my mind is, How can I use that in a story?” Terry Brooks

“I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9am.” Peter DeVries

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” Ray Bradbury

Inspiration for this blog was facing up to a clean page, researching ideas from googling, mind-mapping, and finally ideas started to flow, including: where does inspiration come from?

One recent idea came from simple hard slog: facing up to the white page, researching, mind-mapping ideas, until finally a path appears. But other ideas for various writing have come from a variety of sources, including a shorter piece of fiction written years ago, driving the car, a dream and being inspired by a recent film.

The storyline in the YA novel I am writing, (55,000 words approx – so far) grew from a children’s short story I wrote years ago and lost among a stack of stories, ideas and false starts. Starting with this initial idea I kept writing down notes on characters and over several months the idea and characters grew, and changed and even now, 55,000 words in, the story and characters are still developing the more I begin to understand and get closer to my characters.

Three other stories that are still in the developing stage came from sparks!

One idea, a scene, was a random thought as I drove into a supermarket car park. The idea was visually strong, and the first thought was it would be a perfect film. But as I dug deeper, the story evolved more into a novel.

The scene is in a bank. People are restless, unhappy queueing in a bank on this particular day. I then asked myself questions. Who’s unhappy? Staff, customers, the armed robbers? Are these crims all hardened criminals?

Other questions I asked myself. Were they miserable even before they became victims in an armed robbery? What is their regret today, that morning, that week, over their lifetime? If they were to die who would they leave behind? Who would miss them? A lover? A dog? A cockatoo? Children? Is there a baby in the bank? Will that baby stop crying before it’s too late? Why is it crying? Where is it’s mother? Was she shot? Had the baby been abandoned? The questions continued, thoughts raged, and soon I narrowed down several major characters and a story begun to develop and is still being developed as I dig deeper.

Two other less developed ideas, but ideas I know will be worked on further came from two different other sources – a dream and inspiration from a film. The dream was vivid, and although I have many dreams, this idea stuck in my head, due to the setting – the location and the unforgettable characters. In a way they felt like characters waiting to tell their story.

Moonrise Kingdom, an unconventional film with quirky characters, a romantic/comedy/drama theme,  and two love-struck twelve year-olds led me to a whimsical idea starring a girl who doesn’t want to grow-up. This led to other questions: Why? What if…and a range of ideas presented itself.

So what does this all mean? Should it be this mysterious? A basic answer is: listen to your ideas, your intuition, and follow through with ideas that resonate for whatever reason.

As Neil Gaiman said:

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

Then you need to explore, ask questions, and…..

“…find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him…..Ray Bradbuy

But remember:

“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time.” Leonard Bernstein

Where do your ideas come from, is it from staring at a white screen and writing whatever comes up, by research, asking questions or is it from listening to your thoughts and intuition? Or is it unexplainable gift?


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