Inspiration Series

Inspiration Series – Star Spider

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It’s taken me a long time to write this post because although I find inspiration insanely interesting, I think the truth is I’m a little scared of it. It’s so skittish I sometimes feel that if I speak too loud I’ll scare it away. It’s an almost superstitious relationship I have with my inspiration even though I’m not usually a superstitious person. Inspiration makes me want to knock on wood, carry a lucky charm, cross my fingers. I feel like my inspiration is a thing that’s not really a part of me, even though that’s a ludicrous notion.

The idea of inspiration is completely fascinating to me. I often wonder why it takes the shapes it does. How can one person be lyrically inspired while another is more visual? Where does inspiration come from? Is it just our minds solving problems in an artistic way or is there something more at work—some divine muse perhaps? Probably not.

My inspiration is definitely skittish. I’m a one-trick-at-a-time pony. I work hard to find stories and once I have them I wrestle with them until they take shape, become a real thing. Then I write them and BAM, they’re done and it’s almost as if they were never mine in the first place. It’s a fleeting relationship.

I say I work hard to find my stories and it’s the truth, but I probably shouldn’t. Some studies suggest that inspiration is more of an unbidden experience, that it just happens when you’re open and observing, and I find that to be completely true. Most of my stories sneak up behind me when I’m not looking, but even still I can’t relax enough to wait for them. I get impatient and start searching and that just stresses me out and probably slows down the whole process. It’s just who I am though—impatient for inspiration.

As for finding stories, they live everywhere. I find most of them outside on long, meandering thinky kind of walks. They hide in corners and they tend to only take form when I look at them directly. My stories exist in a quantum state, subject to the observer effect.

Stories are like sacred objects—meaningless until we fill in the blanks, assign them a mythology. Nothing in the world ever started out as anything of specific significance, but when we humans get our hands on things we tend to try to make them profound. Humans are great for making the mundane sacred. And that’s all a story is; a moment, a concept or an object made profound by a writer.

I constantly struggle with my inspiration and every time I finish a story or a novel I tell myself I won’t push the next idea. I’ll keep myself open and just let it come to me. But that never works for long, I get stressed about my lack of inspiration and go looking. Sometimes I’m fruitful and sometimes I just depress myself. I guess I have an artistic temperament—ever the tortured soul searching for my next sacred story.

Inspiration is an amazing thing but it can also be insanely frustrating.

So I’ll just have to cross my fingers and wish on a star that my next story finds me before I have to go out looking for it.

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Inspiration Series

Inspiration Series – Jennifer Pendergast

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If you follow a well-known religion, I imagine it’s easy to answer the question “What do you believe?” At least it’s easy to give a brief answer, even if it is far from complete. For me, there hasn’t been a short answer since I started really thinking about what I believed, and really being honest about it.

And the same is true when I try to answer questions about my inspiration for writing. In her calls for submissions to this series, Star referred to the “almost spiritual” nature of inspiration, and that phrase really struck a chord for me.

The simple answer to where I get my inspiration from is “my head”.  My ideas can come as dreams, daydreams or random thoughts; they often arrive as phrases or concepts, sometimes characters and very occasionally as plots or stories. But where do those things come from? Your guess is as good as mine. I refer to The Muse as a shorthand for something I don’t really understand, in much the same way I might occasionally refer to God, although I don’t picture any particular entity when I use that word.

For me, the interesting thing is not the arrival of the original idea, but the process that turns it into a story. With the possible exception of dreams, my initial ideas are no more than snippets, in need of a great deal of development before they will become even the shortest stories.

When the writing flows best, it feels like a sort of transcribing, perhaps a stream of consciousness, although my writing would never be described as that by a reader. I write stories like I write non-fiction, by just letting the words flow, seeing where they take me, and then tidying them up into something more coherent after the fact.

Some writers talk about “Movies in my mind”. I have no mind’s eye – I could not, for example, give you a reliable physical description of someone I know well, let alone someone or something I’ve imagined. But when a story flows well, this transcribing does come close to something like a movie in my mind, or perhaps a radio play: sounds, words and emotions, but no pictures.

When the writing isn’t flowing, I try to write anyway, and then it’s more about joining the dots, working out where I want the story to go and how it’s going to get there. This is how I write when I’ve drawn up an outline first (something I think has advantages and disadvantages, and which is worthy of a post of its own). Writing to an outline feels much less natural, but it’s still an organic process, because the outline never has the richness and detail of the writing itself, and eventually the characters, places and storylines still take on a life of their own.

One place I both do and don’t get inspiration is real life, and in particular the real people I know. Anyone who knows a writer has probably wondered if they’ll end up in a story, or even asked to, and I can’t answer for other writers, but for me they answer is mostly no, but with a little bit of yes.

As a rule, I find real people far too restrictive. I want to write fiction, not fact, and I want to write the stories The Muse gives me, not the ones I’m already living. And that’s before you get only people’s feelings. If I wrote a character even loosely based on someone I knew, I’d be too worried about upsetting them, or getting things wrong, to really enjoy the writing process. Obviously there will always be name overlaps or relationships that mirror those in my life, but I choose names because they fit a character, not to link them to a real person. I normally say if a character has your name, you can guarantee they won’t have any other facets I particularly associate with you.

On the other hand, I can’t deny that I occasionally use an anecdote or characteristic from someone I know, to flesh out an established character who I’m clear it would work for. Real life, whether an overheard conversation on a train, or an old memory of my own, can inspire elements of a story, even the story itself. Very occasionally I go so far as to play the ‘what if?’ game in my stories, and to wonder what would have happened if a single moment in my life or someone’s close to me, had gone another way. I imagine that’s a game all humans play, but as writers, we get to play it out on paper.

Jennifer Pendergast writes principally for the love of the story, but is gradually building her portfolio and seeking publication of her short stories whilst polishing several draft novels with a view to publication in the longer term. She was delighted when two of her stories were featured in the Canadian edition of Reader’s Digest. Her weekly flash fiction and thoughts on writing can be found at her blog www.elmowrites.wordpress.com.

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Inspiration Series – Karin Orsini

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Inspiration is a beautiful thing. What inspires me? Honestly, I cannot think of something that does not inspire me. When I witness something beautiful such as an act of kindness, the simple peace in nature or even just a smile from a stranger, I am filled with that blissful feeling of love and hope. When I witness destruction, anger or injustice, I am with filled with an urge to take action to create change.  When I pay attention to the world around me I am inspired.

I have not always been inspired and I feel that many people have a hard time being inspired. I do believe that in order to have the capability to be inspired one needs to be mindful, to have a clear head. It is hard to have a clear mind in a world filled with anger, destruction and injustice. Through personal experiences and observations of the world around me I feel that it is safe to say many people seek to escape the world through meaningless distractions and through addictions that they have allowed to develop in order to numb the pain of what they have experienced in the past or what they fear they may experience in the future. In other words, I believe many people unknowingly block themselves off from the possibility being inspired and inspiring others.

I believe that true inspiration, the kind where action usually follows, cannot come to one who is in a brain fog, to one who is distracted or numb. My mind was once caught it the thickest of fogs, for many years. It is not to say that I got nothing done in that time, that I made no accomplishments, or that I was never inspired, but when I look back all I see is fog. In that time I fought hard for temporary periods of relief from my fears and it was in those moments that I was able to live life. I am inspired by my past and my own journey and the hard times that I endured which have given me the strength to face the ongoing challenges in my life today. I am now able to be grateful for my blessings despite the trials that continue to be thrown my way.  I am able to look back with satisfaction on the past few months of my life. With my head out of the fog I have been able to live in the moment and to appreciate the good and the bad in this world, after all how good is “good” if one has never tasted “bad”. Since having a clear mind and opening my eyes I have been inspired and that inspiration has led me to inspire others. It has given me a purpose and it gives me a feeling of great peace, as though I am doing what I am meant to do.

I now live to inspire. I want to give love in every way that I can, to generate more love which I believe is the key to true happiness. Love is the key to the defeat of fear. Fear leads to everything ugly and I believe that love can free one from hurtful thoughts and emotions and bring a sense of peace, a clear head, and a chance to be inspired and become inspiration for others. Once inspired I believe it is our duty to inspire others. Inspiration is a blissful feeling, a feeling full of love and hope. I continue to be inspired by others, I live to inspire. Be the change.

Karin is an animal rights activist born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She currently lives in Guelph, a short ride west from Toronto, with her husband Ryan and her furry daughters Clara and Miley. Karin spends her weekdays as an occasional teacher in Toronto where she enjoys working with and inspiring young students. Karin is on the Vegfest Guelph planning committee and is in the midst of raising money for and planning Guelph’s first ever vegan festival. Karin enjoys spending time in nature, blogging about the vegan lifestyle, keeping fit and staying healthy.

Blog: http://www.simplyvegan10.blogspot.ca
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Twitter: @simplyvegan10