I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I might do a post on finding inspiration to write. So, as promised…
Personally, I find inspiration all over the place and in any number of different ways. Particularly when it comes to finding what it is I want to write about. That can truly come from anywhere: a news story, a song on the radio, a conversation with a friend . . . I’ve already written posts about what inspired my first two novels but, this might be a good time to bring it up again.
The inspiration for The Four Corners struck as I was driving down the 101 freeway in Southern California and thinking about all the different lives that were being lived by the people that surrounded me at that moment. Specifically, I began to think about the home-lives of the people in the houses and apartment complexes that I was passing by. It struck me that some were happy homes and some were not. That led to pondering the many differences and, conversely, the many similarities that existed between them and what led to the contrasting outcomes. Ultimately, I realized that a lot of those households could be changed if the people in them were faced with an extreme circumstance that forced them to realize and admit to both themselves and to each other, how much they loved one another. Those thoughts led to a book. And, now I’m currently writing the next book in the same series, The Four Corners of Darkness.
Although the inspiration for The Gift of Tyler also hit me in the car, it was a completely different experience. For one thing, I wasn’t alone. In fact, I wasn’t even driving. I was in the backseat and my parents were in the front. I was visiting from Los Angeles and we had just been to dinner. The song “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” by Five For Fighting came on the radio. I had heard the song many times previously but, for some reason, the lyrics resonated with me on a far deeper level than they ever had before that moment. I was taken by the idea that being the most powerful person (human or not) on the planet could be difficult and extremely lonely. From there, I wondered what it would be like if someone grew up thinking everything was normal and then suddenly found themselves in the position those lyrics were referring to. A person in that scenario would be faced with a choice between using that power for the common good or for selfish gain. Three weeks later, I had completed a screenplay for The Gift of Tyler. In a couple of months, the next book in The Gift of the Elements series, The Gift of Rio, will be released and I’ve already outlined the third book, The Gift of Matthias.
The main takeaway is the simple fact that there is no way to know when or where the inspiration for a great new story is going to strike. But, when it does, it’s unavoidable. It’s also awesome. You wouldn’t want to avoid it if you could. That’s why it’s always smart to keep a notebook handy. Or, a voice recording app on your smartphone. Whatever works best. Just don’t miss the opportunity to grab a great idea while it’s there because they can be as fleeting as the memory of a great dream.
Then you begin the much lengthier process of turning that brilliant new idea into a full-fledged finished piece of work – whether it be a short story, a 600-page novel, or something in between. I’ve already done a blog post on writer’s block so, I’ll try not to be too redundant. My main point in that post was that I find writer’s block to be little more than a myth. Sure, some days writing comes easier than others. That can be as simple as mood. And, some pages are easier to write than others. It’s all part of the process.
Sometimes, you just need to clear your head. This can mean temporarily moving on to another project, whether the project be something else you’re writing or pulling some weeds in the garden. The bottom line is that a writer needs to let the process run its course without letting difficulty become an excuse for laziness. As I said in the writer’s block post, “Do whatever it takes: A walk in the woods, a lengthy prayer, some journaling at the beach, or, maybe you need the inspiration that another artist can provide – a song with a similar feeling to the one you’re trying to write about.” Even another book, a movie (could be just a scene) or a TV show that you know hits you with the same type of emotion that you’re trying to convey. I’m not suggesting plagiarism. Far from it. Don’t copy. Just use that other piece of work to get you where you need to be mentally and emotionally so that you can do your own work and convey the story and the message that you set out to from the first moment where you were originally inspired to write whatever it is you’re writing.
Find what works for you. And, it may be different on different days, with different projects, and on different pages. That’s okay. Again, it’s part of the process. Every great piece of literature and/or art has a story of its own. A journey that the writer or artist took to bring it to life. Don’t be afraid to take it. Embrace it. No matter how frustrating that experience can sometimes be, when you look back, it will also be part of the joy that piece gives you. And, whatever you’re working on can become the inspiration for someone else. Or, maybe even for yourself at some point.
That’s the beauty of art, of writing, and of being an artist or a writer.