Awhile back, I read this really great “interview” on creativity on Kelle Hampton’s blog. I thought the questions she asked and answered were so spot on and decided to do the same myself, but spacing it out with one question per post, so I can really dive in and explore. And also because it gives me at least eight ready-made posts. Two birds, people.
I was not, however, planning on answering these questions while I’m still trying to get inspired and motivated and refuel my creativity.
(Side note: I keep wanting to buy a Day Designer or Elise’s Get To Work Book or one of these planners or something else. But then I tell myself, don’t think one of these will be the “magic tool” that will make me more productive and organized. I still need to use the planner and do the work. And then I argue back, but one of these might help me develop a system and form rituals and habits that will make me more productive. Then I think “air and light and time and space” babe, if you’re gonna be productive you’re gonna find a way to do it, whether it’s with post-it notes or an old notebook or just writing to-do lists on the back of scratch paper. A $70 planner isn’t the key.) (This is what it’s like inside my head.)
Let’s get on with Question #1, shall we?
What inspires you to create?
You know, I don’t have a simple, easy answer for this (luckily, or I wouldn’t have enough material for a full post). I read an interview with an author once where, in response to the question “where do you get your ideas?” she said “I make them up in my head.”
Sometimes I see or hear something as I go through my day — a fashion statement, a unique face, an overheard conversation, a news article, even an object like a distinctive car can be the start of what becomes a character. More often than not, though, something will just pop in my head — a name, a line of dialogue, a setting. In high school, I started to write this dystopian novel set in the future (I was light years ahead of Suzanne Collins and whoever wrote Divergent…) and the genesis of it was an image that popped in my head one day of a girl wearing a blue sports bra, out jogging along a path in a park, and she heard something weird in the bushes and crouched down to get a better look at whatever it was.
I literally had this crystal-clear snapshot of that moment in my head, and from it sprung this idea of a Pleasantville-slash-Giver-like society that was basically held together by everyone in the town willfully choosing not to question what was holding it together, and then this girl sort of found the crack in the armor, so to speak, and started this chain of events and…
Well, that’s as far as I got with it.
I do know that there’s this cycle with creating — the more I write, the more ideas I get, and so on. It used to be like that, at least. It’s been more of a struggle to get that cycle started and going strong as of late.
I tend to get ideas when I run, but I try not to dive into them because, well, I can’t write them down or anything in the middle of a run (I don’t run with my phone so I can’t record it or write a note to myself). I’ll get a little snapshot like the girl in the sports bra or a line of dialogue and try to force myself to just think about that until I get home. I don’t start writing prose in my head or fleshing out a character or anything beyond that one little snippet until I get home and can let my ideas run with a pen in hand or laptop open.
“Current events” and news articles can definitely inspire ideas. I’ve been toying with a novel about baseball players for the better part of two or three years, partially inspired by some of the semi-recent suspensions for steroid and PED use. Much more recently, I read an article about addiction that directly inspired the novel I’m currently trying to make some progress on.
And the general “themes” that inspire me? Home. Family. Baseball. The “trap” of the American Dream (see: Grapes of Wrath, Death of a Salesman). What it means to be human (which can go any number of directions). Traditions, heritage, and ancestry.
I wish, like so many other writers and people in creative fields, that there was an easy formula, a magic bullet that makes finding inspiration easy and simple. The truth is that it’s both easy and the hardest fucking thing ever, because really, to be inspired, you simply have to choose to be inspired. It’s a mindset shift and sometimes it’s so easy because the sun is shining and birds are singing and everything’s great and you’re getting ideas everywhere…and sometimes you just plain woke up on the wrong side of the bed and your computer hates you and everything is more complicated than it needs to be and if you’re tasked with coming up with an idea, any idea, much less a good one, you’re going to gouge your damn eyes out.
And you know you just need to relax and get over it and get out of your head and let things go. but good God it’s nearly impossible to do that when you’re so frustrated, isn’t it? Or you know you just need to accept that brilliance won’t happen on this particular day and that’s okay and you can try again tomorrow. But then you get to tomorrow and you need to move on from yesterday and choose to let something inspire you.