This discussion came up in my creative writing class last week and apparently drinking, sitting in Starbucks, going outside for a smoke or even going for a walk can set the appropriate stage to allow the creative juices to flow. This got me thinking about whether or not there is a qualitative difference between ideas and inspiration and if they come from different places.
Let me try to be clear. I’ve often heard the question “what do you write about when you don’t know what to write about?” asked by would be writers and find it something of an odd question. I think it was Neil Gaiman who said that if you want to be a writer you also need to go out into the world and live – i.e. be a human being. Read the news, go outside and eavesdrop on a conversation with some people on the street, root out thoughts you’ve had about your own life. The number of things that a person can write about are as infinite as the universe itself so why would a person ever be stuck for something to say. Then it dawned on me that these are ideas and those who ask the question are really driving at inspiration.
Ideas are the things that circle around us. I jokingly said on twitter the other day that I was going to write a story about vampire mermaids (don’t worry, I won’t!) but this is an idea only. I’d have no clue what to do with it and that’s where inspiration comes in. Inspiration is more than simply information. It’s the fairy dust that makes the idea come alive. I think inspiration might be the in-between after you get the basic idea but before you start the head wreck that is the first draft. It’s that space where the thought percolates in your head, where it finds form and shape.
So back to the question, where does inspiration come from? Thinking about it this week, most of my inspiring happens when I’m taking my morning shower. When I’m still in that haze between my waking and my dreaming self is when the fairy dust seems to fall. It’s always in-between shampoos that I become unstuck with an idea or something I’ve come across moves out of the information space and into the creative one. I feel it must be something to do with isolation in the same way that going for a walk seems to work for some of my class. Like some sort of a Jedi mind trick, I need to look at my ideas sideways without too many distractions but also without facing it head on. So doing something simple and solitary that doesn’t require a lot of concentration seems to do the trick for many. Getting a cup of coffee, having a drink, taking a walk or a shower and letting that kernel grow into a great story.