Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Gathering Inspiration

We often think of inspiration as something that simply comes to us… there’s that image of the writer being struck by a ‘bolt of lightning’. But that isn’t how it works. At least, I’ve never been struck by this mysterious lightning bolt of ideas - and I think waiting for it is probably a waste of time.

How often have you sat in front of your computer, only to stare at a word document for a few minutes and then open facebook? Or taken up your notebook, only to sigh and put it down again because you don’t know what to write. You aren't feeling it. You aren’t motivated. You just want a cup of coffee and maybe a nap… You aren’t inspired and nothing gets done.

So, even if you want to keep faith in the lightning bolt, I encourage you to find your own inspiration in the meantime.


Minstrel Sophia of Apostrophe
Have you ever played The Sims Medieval? It's one of my favourite ways to procrastinate - The Kingdom of Apostrophe (I'm a writing geek, okay?) flourishes whenever I'm trying to put something off.

Anyway, one of the playable characters  is ‘the bard’ of the kingdom and, guess what? They don't let a lack of ideas stop them.

Playing as the bard, one of the tasks you have to complete is to spend a certain amount of time ‘gathering inspiration’. This is something that many of us forget to do in the real world.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we should stand around on the beach all day, holding a quill and looking pensively at a scroll... but I do think we ought to be actively gathering inspiration from the world around us.


For instance:

·         Those hours you spent procrastinating on facebook - what if you looked at your friend’s passive aggressive status as a story prompt? Or perhaps there’s a poem in those targeted adverts?

·         Or that notebook you closed - when and where did you get it? Why? What kind of story did you think would grow inside it?

·         That thing that’s been in the fridge for ages - why is it even there? What kind of person would buy it and not even open the packet? (Your character can have a more interesting reason than ‘it was on offer but I don’t actually like olives’)

So, open your notebook, or your word document (or, if you’re like me, your spreadsheet) and start jotting ideas down. Even if you don’t think you have any ideas. Or if none of your ideas are ‘good enough’. That kind of thinking isn’t going to help. We all have moments when we don’t trust ourselves to come up with ‘good’ ideas. So, I suggest we remove the pressure. Look for ideas in the silliest places you can and follow the most ridiculous trains of thought.

·         What’s down the back of the sofa? How did it get there? Was it planted? Literally? Does someone come every day to water it? Who? Why? Is it ever going to grow? What if it did? What would it become?

The more we train our minds to see stories everywhere and to pursue these ‘what if’s’, the easier it becomes to find that inspiration. You may even decide to follow up on some of your ‘ridiculous’ story ideas – particularly if you write for children.

The key is in productive procrastination. You may not have any actual words written, but the day wasn’t the write-off it could have been. Sometimes we need to let our minds have some play time. The pressure of the blank page can be terrifying when you are determined to write something good. But, if you’re just coming up with story ideas to amuse yourself... you’ll be surprised how much you get down.

Now, never delete these story ideas. You don’t have to show them to anyone or turn them into stories or poems or articles. You don’t have to do anything with them. Just keep them. Look over them when you need a laugh or when you feel un-inspired. Trust me. Nobody can appeal to your sense of humour the way you can.

And sometimes that’s just the ego boost we need to have faith in our own ideas, rather than an imaginary lightning bolt.

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