Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It’s actually a lot harder to write about inspiration than you might think. I am lacking in inspiration on inspiration. In any case, it’s not as if you can force inspiration on yourself.

For those of you who are interested, I’m going to start with the etymology of the word “inspiration”. For those of you who aren’t, I’m going to start with it anyway. The word originally comes from the Latin verb “inspiro” meaning “I breath into” (or other things along those lines). Over time, inspiration has gone from that to that gigantic thunderbolt that hits us from time to time – and some of us more than others.

Like I said, inspiration can’t be forced – but we can find it in the most unlikely places. It means that the best way to find inspiration is to be open to everything and be ready to try everything. It also means that sometimes, the best way to find inspiration could be in what we’ve conditioned ourselves to be the ways in which we are most susceptible to being inspired, like, for example, by reading music. I’m just going to give a few ways in which inspiration has struck me and various of my friends. I’m not saying that this is going to happen/will work for you, since I’m known to have a seriously hyperactive imagination and can be and have been inspired from things as mundane as a Twix bar.

First port of call: music. I think just about every writer I know turns to music as an aide to writing. For some people, just turning on a CD and jiving around the house is enough for half a dozen plots to come galloping into their heads, but I’ve always found that music is more helpful for inspiring a mood than inspiring a whole story. The actress Anne Hathaway said that she used to listen to sad songs on her iPod just before a shoot where she was supposed to cry, and it worked. Obviously, it’s not going to work for everybody, but the type of music you listen to will have at least a subconscious impact on the mood of the scene you write. If it’s a really tense, action-packed scene, it’s going to help you a lot more if you’ve got music with real tension playing in the background than if you’ve got Holst’s Venus from the planets serenading you at your desk. Similarly, it’s going to make things a little tougher if you’re trying to write a really moving and deeply emotional death scene with house or techno thumping away in the background (unless your character dies in a nightclub). If you’re writing a high fantasy book, you’re probably better off not listening to rap nonstop unless it’s a part of the world-building – film music would be a better bet. Of course, these aren’t hard-and-fast set rules or anything; they’re just suggestions.

Like I said earlier, I get inspired to do stuff off the weirdest things (like when I decided to teach myself Korean because my favourite boy band is Korean… which looks normal until you factor in that this actually inspired a desire to learn at least a little of nine different languages in nine months). I can usually pinpoint my primary source of inspiration in any one novel or series I’ve written/am writing. My primary points of inspiration tend to be one of three things: an idea for a character, a memorable quote from a character, or a crux encounter or situation. I am the kind of person who will be listening to people talking and suddenly get out my mobile or my notebook – whichever’s nearest – and record a couple of lines of what’s being said or done with the merry thought of: “that is going in my next novel. Thanks, darlings!” (No, really, nobody is safe.) Real life experiences, either of yourself or those of others, are all part of a huge inspiration pool just waiting to be fished. If you hunt around enough, there is bound to be one experience that somebody’s had that just jumps out at you, slapping you around the head like a wet fish and yelling “pick me! Pick me!” in an imitation of Eddie Murphy voicing Donkey in the Shrek films. Whatever form or shape the lightning bolt comes in, take it. Several of my friends have been extremely amused to find variations of silly things they’ve done in various drafts of what I’ve written. Quite apart from that, there are people are there with the most extraordinary life stories. I remember going on once and seeing this thing about real life events compared to similar things in films and why the real life ones were so much more badass. The number one rated one – and I kid you not; I just wish I could remember which one it was – was just… well, basically, this guy had the most incredible war adventures, and there’d been a film made about them. People thought the stuff done in the film was absolutely incredible, especially since it was based on real life… and it then turned out that the events from real life had been hugely toned down in the film rather than racked up because the producers and the guy whose life they were basing the film on thought it would be pushing the bounds of credulity too far to put out the actual truth.

The actual truth was so inspiring it had to be toned down to make fiction that most people thought was beyond the bounds of reality. What does that say about the kind of inspiration we can find right in front of our noses? IT’S AWESOME. If you start looking at it that way, everyday life is FULL of little things that we can use as sources of inspiration. Sometimes, it’s the kind of bolt-of-lightning inspiration we get that makes us go “OH-oh-oh!” Sometimes it’s more like: “Hmm. I think I could use that.” Nobody and nothing is safe. Inspiration can take you ANYWHERE.

There’s a honeybee trying to find the window to go outside and this is my first time blogging. I’m hoping it’s going to discover the way out soon because it’s an endangered species. Happy writing, everybody!


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