Breathe...

Writing and Inspiration

I may be the wrong guy to blog about writer’s block; I don’t get it. But then, maybe that makes me a good guy to blog about it. I don’t have trouble getting inspired, because inspiring things are all around me. You might think this is an attitude and, in part, it is. You might think it’s because of where I live, or where I’ve travelled, and in part you’d be right. What’s important though, is to understand that none of these factors is an accident.

I had a friend who did amazing work in university. He was a chemical engineer, and his grades were the highest for each of the years he attended. I saw his study area one day and he smiled as he gave it credit for his ability to focus on the material at hand. It was a desk, tucked in beside the furnace in the basement. Dark, except for the cone of light cast down by a little plastic lamp. The wall in front of it was plain, grey concrete.

He did great work there.

I couldn’t do what I do… there.

That is to say, I could write there, but only if I already knew what it was I was going to write. I could take ideas that had been percolating in the back of my brain for a week or two, or an idea that struck like lightning in another place, and was being formed and fashioned into something crafted to put down on the page, and hammer into shape.

But I couldn’t do the magic there. That inspiration — the breathing in of ideas and emotions, situations I’ve never lived, people I’ve never met, even worlds that never were — this comes to me in another place. And at least a part of that place, must be real.

I have travelled a lot, been in most corners of the world, and each time I do I see a story superimposed on the real life of the people there. I watch a movie, or play a computer game, and ideas come to me. I listen in on a conversation in a cafe, or on a train, and I guess at the hearts of those speaking and listening…
All of this, is fodder to the writer who is mindful to listen.

When you first try this, and are first training your mind to see story in every nook and cranny of life, it helps to go to unusual places. Visit castles or forts, and imagine the residents in ages past. Stroll through a museum and imagine handling the artefacts, living in the cave, or palace that the owner once lived in. Chat with someone from another country, or another generation, and place yourself behind their words.

Don’t do this as an exercise; do it as a lifestyle. Don’t just write; be a writer. “Inspiration” means “breathing in”, and is singularly important to the process of making stories. So take a step out of your routine, open your eyes and your heart, and… inhale!

In time, you won’t have the writing hours to capture all of your ideas.

Jeff SpenceComment