A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.
– Sidney Sheldon
Those two words make my blood run cold. All at once, every idea I’ve ever had disappears. Those well intentioned, timetabled hours of writing stretch out in front of me; an unending blank page. A devil on the shoulder.
Inspiration. En-speer-rayyy-shun. Go on, roll it around your tongue. Say it loud. Sing “Inspiration, come to me, stop hiding, thy dirty trickster thee!”
Did it work?
Nope. Just wanting to be inspired isn’t enough – you have to seek your own personal muse.
David’s right – the trick is to look for inspiration everywhere. A bus ride can yield overheard snippets of conversation; a car journey – a new song on the radio. A conversation with a good friend can yield an entire notebook’s worth of ideas. If you’re inside on a rainy day, the greatest use of your writing time is to read and write in equal measure. Hell, just staring out of the window at the rain might trigger something.
One of The Midnight Writer’s favourite authors, the peerless Haruki Murakami writes for five or six hours (from 4am), then runs or swims then spends the rest of the day reading and listening to music. No-one who has ever read his novels could be in doubt of the huge influence his daily routine has on his writing.
You have to dream intentionally. Most people dream a dream when they are asleep. But to be a writer, you have to dream while you are awake, intentionally. – Haruki Murakami
You just have to want to see it. Don’t dismiss even the smallest idea; even the most unusual situation can inspire. Gertrude Stein used to sit in her car, scribbling down notes on pieces of scrap paper to find her inspiration; James Thurber was a master of the daydream, often tuning out the rest of the world entirely, to the chagrin of his wife.
You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. ~ Neil Gaiman
Here at the Midnight Writer, my inspiration comes from so many sources it’s impossible to list them all but even so, I have days when nothing is happening in the old grey matter, which can be, as you may have experienced, really quite distressing for a writer. I found the trick is this: don’t worry about it so much. Instead of screwing yourself into a knot, go do something else. If you’re a genre writer, go listen to some music which could be used in the film of your book – I’m a horror/suspense writer, so I always go for the disturbing (‘Some Marilyn Manson, Reverend?” “Don’t mind if I do!”) – I’ve even compiled a YouTube playlist for such an occasion.
Go, look. Listen. Dream. Use your senses. Use the writer’s greatest gift – procrastination – seek out new ideas, lists of weird stuff, even great fan fiction. Go hang out at Pinterest. Seriously, anything.
Then come back and tell us what has inspired your writing – share your ideas in the comments below – you never who you might be helping out!
MF, 25th August 2015
Scribby Checklist #1: Where to find inspiration
- Music – stick on your favourites or try something new. Listen to our Music Monday playlists or for a chilled-out session, our Sunday Zen mix.
- Art – get down to your (hopefully) free local galleries or museums or just trawl the web – this is a great Tumblr page for writers’ inspiration and while you’re there, don’t forget to follow us!
- Conversation – brainstorm with a friend, people-watch (and eavesdrop) at a cafe, on the bus, in a queue.
- News – an endless resource
- Fiction – read, read, then read some more.
- Non-Fiction – see above. J.W. Dunne’s book on precognitive dreams inspired my short story, How Soon is Now?
- Pinterest – images and links – you never know where you end up!
- Lists – find the weird, wonderful and downright fascinating. There are many list sites online as well as numerous playlists on YouTube.
- History – both your own and others – take a scenario and exaggerate it. You’ll be surprised where that can lead.
- Writers’ Routines – check out how your favourite writers spend their day.