I’m just back from a summer vacation that has engendered seething jealousy from friends and colleagues alike. The jealousy stems in part from what several have called its “inspiration” value. And based on the story I told you last time, I should have my next book completely outlined with loads of snippets of narrative and dialogue in my little purple Moleskine notebook.
Inspiration it was – but I’m not quite ready to write yet – historical fiction requires more than an inspirational story line – it takes significant and detailed research. We’ll get to that research process, but today I am fixated on the notion of inspiration.
In medical terms, inspiration means breathing in ad breathing out. In a way, artistic inspiration is the same. The writer (or choreographer, or painter or even corporate strategist for that matter) has a sudden burst of creativity – the genesis of that moment might not even be discernable at the time. We don’t always know the source of our inspiration in the moment. We know only that something has triggered action. So in a way, it’s like breathing in and breathing out – the creative fodder is breathed in, and the creative output is breathed out. Over the years, however, various creative individuals have had differing takes on just what it means to be inspired.
Leonard Bernstein said this: “Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time…The wait is simply too long.” Lesson 1: Don’t just sit back and wait for the muse to strike. Find ways to seek inspiration in the meantime. I found this writer’s blog entry that has a laundry list of things to do to fill that gap between sudden bursts of creativity.
Picasso’s approach to the creative process is echoed by many other artists: “Inspiration exists,” he once said, “but it has to find us working.” Lesson 2: Just get down to work. Write about anything around you and eventually, the creative muse will strike and you’ll be inspired either to trash everything or to use it in new and innovative ways.
American businessman Nolan Bushnell has been quoted as saying that “the ultimate inspiration is the deadline.” Lesson 3: Set deadlines and stick to them. Better yet, have someone else set them for you. Try this: tell your significant other or someone whose feedback on your writing you actually appreciate, and tell him or her that you’ll have a few chapters to be read in two weeks. Even that kind of a deadline is inspirational. Then, when you have a deadline from a publisher, you’ll know how to seek inspiration from knowing it has to get done.
So, here’s what I’m up to: I’m looking at my vacation photos and seeing what stories they hold for me. I’m writing about a number of things in several different genres. I’m doing research on two new ideas. I’ve told my husband that he’ll have a few more chapters for him to read in two weeks.