I have been thinking about inspiration the last few days. What inspires us and why? Personally I am very susceptible to song lyrics (and even inflict plot-bunny-ish songs on my friends) although picture prompts, watching a family in a park – most any audio or visual will do.

Most recently, though, I find that I do not have a single source of inspiration for a story idea. It’s as though all the music I’ve heard, all the books I’ve read, all the movies I’ve been to and places I’ve seen just stew together until I need something. Then, like Dumbledore’s pensieve I dip my wand in and pull something out when I need it.

Ultimately the source of the inspiration is not as important as the fact that it strikes at all. But as I think about the Artist’s Way and opening the creative mind, it seems that understanding what inspires us can help us put ourselves in the path of things that spark the creative spirit in us.

So, what inspires you?

3 Replies to “Inspiration”

  1. You are certainly one of my inspirations! I am fortunate to receive ideas much as you describe. A certain image the other day has left me with a very specific idea if I just take the time to put the story down. Happy writing!

  2. It's interesting that you pick now to ask this question. I've been thinking a lot about it, since part of the Evanston Writers Workshop mandate, if you will, is the Prompt Group. We meet every other week and come up with new and exciting ways each time to get each other writing.

    One of the prompts that I was the most surprised by, in that it worked, is using scent.

    Let me explain. Jeanne Rose, the medical herbalist and prolific author and scientist, has something called the "Vocabulary of Odor" kit. In the basic kit, there are seven scents that range through the basic odors. Over time, the student develops the ability to distinguish these components in other fragrances and, much like a wine connoisseur, be able to describe them using that vocabulary.

    I brought this kit to the prompt group once and passed each one, in order, around the table. What surprised me was this: the writers didn't want to lift their pens from their notebooks!

    Once I thought about what happened, it made more sense. (No pun intended.) In her book A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman discusses the sense of smell and explains that it is the only sense we have that is linked directly to the hypothalamus, with no intervening 'translation.' Sound is a vibration translated by the inner ear drum; vision comes into the eye upside down and is righted by the brain and translated into an image that we understand; and so on. Not so with scent: it comes into the brain and is immediately interpreted. This accounts for smelling something and 'being taken back in time' or having some kind of vivid memory – either positive or negative – well up almost without conscious volition.

    So here's what I recommend: if we are lacking in an inspiration, try smelling something. Examples include, go to your spice cabinet and sniff at random; go to your spouse or boyfriend's cologne and sniff; go to the store and sample scents (this is sometimes problematic because the idea will pop to mind immediately and sitting on the floor of the fragrance section at Macy's causes talk), (not that I know this from personal experience, or anything – grin), etc. See what comes up for you.

    Great post! Thought-provoking (as you can see from the size of my comment – you've inspired me!).

  3. Personally, movies are a big inspiration to me.

    The scents once, though, that is very interesting. I've never really thought about that, before.It's something I'm going to have to try.

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