Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Trick to Finding Inspiration

By Nichole Giles

As you dive headlong into the world of writing, it’s inevitable that you’ll hear the following question uncountable times. “Where do you get your inspiration?”

Well, okay. It may not be phrased exactly that way. There are probably thousands of variations that in the end come out to be the same question. How do you know what to write? And truthfully, every author will likely give you an entirely unique answer. No two people think or believe exactly the same things—no matter what your religion or what political party you support. So, it goes without saying that no two authors will get the same ideas from the exact same source.

There is no magic well from which we can draw inspiration when we’re feeling unable to write. No super-writing pill that promises to help us produce a New York Times bestseller after we’ve taken it for six weeks. Even M&M’s can’t do that. And I’ll tell you a secret. You can attend thousands of writing classes, conferences, and groups, but no one there will stick you in the arm with a needle full of ideas.

The trick, I think, is paying attention to life. All around us are beautiful, inspiring things. Moments that steal our breath and leave us gasping for air. Hurtful, angry, joyful, happy, excited, nervous moments—they all give us the experience and knowledge we need in order to write. Sometimes, I find myself inspired by songs on the radio, or staring at the moon in the night sky, or watching my children sleep. I watch the news and feel sick by some things, and encouraged by others. By reading the newspaper, I can come up with scenarios, plot points, and characterizations that merge together in my mind to create a brilliant idea.

On sunny days when the air is warm enough for me to drive around with my convertible top down, that’s inspiring to me too. Just to drive. Just to feel, to breathe in and out and let the sun warm my skin. Life is full of these valuable little moments, full of stories. And every person has hundreds—if not thousands—to tell.

So really, the problem is not so much coming up with a story idea, but finding the right words to tell it. That’s the thing for which we need inspiration, and the reason we need those classes, conferences, and groups. Because just being in the same room with other authors has a tendency to set your word finder spinning and help you get that story out of your head and onto paper (or screen.)

Next time someone asks you where you get your ideas, tell them to take a good look around. They’re everywhere.


Connie Hall said...

Thanks for reminding me about all the wonderful things around me that can add to my finding inspiration when writing.

Nichole Giles said...

You're very welcome, Connie. I happen to have inside information that you have some pretty adorable grandchildren who probably give you lots of ideas.