Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why "Finding Inspiration" is So Important

I've already noticed, in the days since my Jan 16th post, that I'm tending towards tagging my posts with "Finding Inspiration" more often than not. I wondered if I was using this tag too liberally, if I was treating it as a catch-all rather than a specific category. Then, today I realized that "Finding Inspiration" is so pertinent to writing life that it's only natural for most of the things I write about to fall into this category.

As writers, we notice things. If you're like me, you keep lists of things that catch your eye, or of interesting - and, often, random - conversations you have during the day. And that's where "Finding Inspiration" comes in; it provides a place for you to remember and share those moments, actions, images, and conversations that might influence what you and I write about next.

Today, in Jenny Rappaport's blog, Litsoup, there was a Book Block about the middle-grade novel, Emmy & The Home for Troubled Girls, by Lynne Jonell. As with all the Book Blocks Jenny posts, the feature author summarized her novel and talked about where she got her inspiration. The last paragraph discusses the genesis of any story (italics mine):

"I think, as writers, our subconscious minds push up images, snatches of songs, tantalizing odors, evocative phrases; and we need to pay attention. These incoherent fragments are the first tiny green shoots of something that has an elaborate root system already in place. I watch for these. I kneel down and give them my full attention; I water, fertilize, weed, I do everything in my power to coax the stories up. But without the seed first rotting in the ground for years and years, and then sending up a first exploratory frond, I have nothing to work with."

By posting to the category "Finding Inspiration," I'm taking the first step in noticing that "first tiny green shoot." I'm thinking about images and conversations, and wondering where they sprung from, why they're stuck in my head, and why I even noticed them in the first place. Someone once asked me how I came up with the idea for my work-in-progress novel, Through Charlotte's Eyes. It started with a footnote in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Then, I started researching - I knelt down and dug into the earth - and the story started falling into place. This is just one example of the principle at work in "Finding Inspiration" and in the sentiment expressed by Jonell. It's also why I'll keep posting to "Finding Inspiration" as much and as often as I'd like.


coachwithheart said...

It wasn't long ago in another forum that someone asked a question about finding inspiration. Where do you find inspiration?

My initial thoughts were:

1. To read, read and read some more.
2. Experience something new and out of the ordinary.
3. Give of yourself - to the issues of poverty perhaps, something valuable, something different, something new.

Each of these activities takes us to new places either physically or mentally. Our heart is impacted, our ideas stretched and our mind challenged and with that inspiration can start to ooze from our pores and into our work, and into our lives.

Liz S said...

coachwithheart - I definitely agree with you on every point, but think that reading can be, in ways, a "crutch." Have you ever read "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" by Julia Cameron? I definitely recommend it if you haven't already.

Cameron makes an interesting point about reading; she recognizes its importance but suggests that artists/writers - especially "blocked" ones - try a week of "reading deprivation," partially to see how not reading affects your writing. For big readers like me, it was a very weird/scary/hard thing to do, but, as Cameron suggested, I became involved in more activities that I wouldn't have otherwise, and I ended up coming up with some pretty neat ideas for stories. Granted, by the end of week, I plunged into reading yet again!

coachwithheart said...

I wouldn't say that all you do is read, but that is should be part of each day. Absolutely it is beneficial to experience and explore life outside the boundaries of the written word.

Curiosity is required. Innovation is a result of the curious appetite for the "What is that isn't".