Friday, April 22, 2016

Inspiration, Two Ways

With all the talk of inspiration going on around here, it’s obviously no surprised that I’ve found myself thinking about what primes the ole’ pump the past week or so. What’s inspiration, you ask? Well, you know, It’s…that thing.  The stuff that helps you get stuff done.

On second thought, maybe we should consult Google for a proper definition. The way I described it above a) was entirely too reminiscent of Larry the Cable Guy, and b) is vague enough it could be said of both Red Bull and Elmer’s School Glue and still be equally true. Which puts that phrase in solid running for Most Generic Phrase of 2016.

Anyway…Google says:

in·spi·ra·tionˌinspəˈrāSH(ə)n/ - noun

  1. the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

I should probably add that there was a (2) part to that definition, which you can check out if you’re inclined to follow ye old link here, but it’s really just something about respiration. And, honestly, outside of a corny joke about writing MG being just as important as breathing, respiration is just not that important right now.

Well, other than that we all should keep doing it. That’s pretty important.

So, the process of being stimulated to do or feel something, huh? I have to admit, sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten off lucky in that regard when it comes to making stories. For some writers I know, inspiration for new stories is like planting a garden.  It’s takes good seeds, just the right amount of water and sunlight and warm cozy soil, a bunch of back-breaking work, and possibly some conversation with an Italian grandmother to get things growing properly. That is, they have to have Eureka! moment with a good story conceit, and ample time to poke and prod and nurture and coax it, just to grow a story out of their head.

(Does anyone else suddenly have a mental image of Jack’s beanstalk growing of an author’s ear? Poor author.)

What, then, makes me lucky in that regard? That is, in the story growing one rather than the ear-beanstalk one.  Sure, I am lucky in the ear-beanstalk regard too, but no more than the other 100% of the human population on Earth not capable of growing plants from their auditory organs.

Where was I? Right. Lucky.  I’m luckier than some because I’m pretty strictly a Science Fiction and/or Fantasy writer.  Which means that I can basically write stories about anything I can’t do in my every day life.  And let’s face it, there’s a lot I can’t do. I can’t conjure Fireballs, I can’t make trips to Alpha Centauri at faster than light speeds (or even at any speed, for that matter), and I can’t commune with the spirit of a long dead relative king at my family’s ancestral home in Glaxonsmithclinederry on the Pond or wherever. We’re basically from Cincinnati. We’ve kind of always been from Cincinnati, and, heck, one set of my grandparents never even owned a house. So, um, no ancestral home here.

Oddly enough, there are actually some family ghost stories, but that’s probably a post for a different day.

As for getting inspired by new story ideas, though? The honest trust is that I could probably write down at least one new idea a day, if not more. For instance, I actually got a idea earlier today about IT and voodoo and time traveling that I can’t wait to pick apart a little bit.  And you know where that idea came from? A tweet from a friend. Well, and apparently autocorrect. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone; mark my words, autocorrect will be the inspiration for 97% of the world’s creative output by the year 2037. It’s already generates roughly 43% of Buzzfeed’s content.

The really thing about inspiration, though, is that it’s got more than just one facet when it comes to writing. Sure, Inspiration of Ideas is a delightfully compelling subject, and the sources of it can be wildly diverse among writers. But if you ask me, even more interesting is the question of the Inspiration of Work, because it’s one that each and every one of us who writes anything must answer almost daily if we’re going to get anything done. What things inspire us to sit at a keyboard or a desk, and stare at the screen or notebook until the words finally come wriggling out, like baby turtles hobbling across the sand?

For me, it’s the love of seeing others discover the characters and worlds in my head. It’s the pride of knowing that I set out to make a story real, and did my level best to accomplish it. But I’d be lying if I tried to argue that high ideals got all my books written. There’s also the practical matter of the reward of M&Ms that marks the end of a solid sitting of work for me, too.

And if you ask me, you can never have too much practical inspiration. Something I’ll leave you to consider while you’re thinking about what inspires your work and your ideas.

Pud’n

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