Inspirations for Writing

Inspirations for writing


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind, but now I see!

Inspiration is what I’m thinking of today. It takes many forms, many expressions, and many ways of wriggling its way into your muse, and none of us know all the ways. The above came to us from a slave trader (among things) named John Newton. There have been things written about Mr. Newton which would give you a broad overview about him, some of which was unhappy and some happy. Also, several films and stage works continue his story. His was a divine inspiration, through a path that many of us today couldn’t fathom. Amazing Grace was first published in 1779 and it was one of many acknowledgements of the inspiration that John Newton came to express.

For us as writers (or singers, or movie makers, or artists, or ….) inspiration is that quality that can either be effortless or agonizing. Sometimes, there is a paradox in that the nominal inspiration can be both at the same time.  Usually, it’s simply a desire to say something. After all, the only difference between the written word and the spoken word is that you can see the written word. Or, in the case of Braille, touch the word.

Inspiration can hit when you look at your significant other and think, “Her birthday is next week. I want to do something for her.” So, you arrange for flowers to be delivered and get a cake made with her favorite colors. You write some lines that, while it might not be as eloquent as you’d want, it still expresses your feelings as clearly as seeing the smile it brings.

Or, it can hit when you lose someone you love. Many times, this is private catharsis, and for those of us that are wordslingers, sometimes it’s a surprisingly effective way to generate a word count over what you might ever think you’re capable of. The words tumble out along with the tears. It seems that this is often the most powerful form of writing, especially if your reader forms an empathic bond with you.

For me, inspiration can come from many things. I could be walking along in a store somewhere and see something that makes me go, “hmmm… what if?” Sometimes, I’ll be washing dishes and an errant thought will traverse my mind, and I’ll follow that thought with, “hmmm… what if?” I’ve had happy times that I wanted to put down in verse, and I’ve poured out my pain in my writing.

A good way to look for inspiration is in the things you like to do other than writing. It’s a lot easier to write about something that your mind is engaged in, instead of fumbling around trying to come up with something that makes sense. Fumbling around is going to happen, too, don’t get me wrong. It’s just a lot easier to rip out the words when you have focus and intent, or so it seems to me, anyway.

I like to watch or read the news a lot. It’s a habit that I picked up in childhood, trying to learn about whatever might be going on in the world. I’ve written a few things before after having heard about this breakthrough or that occurrence. It’s the same principle as an editorial cartoon. It just takes a different format. I’ve written fanfic before, after having watched an episode of my favorite TV shows and thought to myself, “hmmm…what if?”

I stubbed my toe one night when I ran into the dresser. Never mind what I said about the subject, but what I wrote the next day in my Creative Writing class was well received. I got up the next morning, looked at my aching toe and thought to myself, “hmmm… what if?” I limped to class, sat down gratefully in that uncomfortable desk and let it rip.

Do you see what I’m driving at?

“Hmmm… what if?” That “what if” drives a lot of speculative fiction. For that matter, a lot of historical fiction. Yes, in historical fiction, you as the reader already know (maybe) what happened. But do you know what the characters thought about this or that? Ever wonder what went through Winston Churchill’s mind during World War II? Or Benedict Arnold’s mind before he was caught? Or maybe Alexander’s mind, before he lay on his bed and died?

I watched a Dr. Who episode recently with Winston Churchill. Quite entertaining, but what if old Winston had really met a Dalek?

See what I mean?

So, you find inspiration where you can. Writing about what you like to eat can do it (sausage, hot peppers, steak, potatoes, practically anything but sour cream and guacamole,) Maybe being turned down for things you needed for this or that. Perhaps something going on in your community that you just have to write a letter to the editor to. All of these things.

What about writing a short story, or perhaps something longer?

I’ve been inspired by people I know to put characters like them into what I write. I don’t get petty or mean about it (usually,) and sometimes I take things about two or three or even four people and make a new character. Then I think about a scene, and after I plop a character into the scene I think about a plot. Inspiration in this vein can sometimes come depending on how much I like that particular character.

And then I’m off and rolling.

I like to try to keep track of what I’m inspiring on, though. I’ll use my pad to write down the ideas, then go back to my keyboard and keep writing. This way, I can incorporated what I’m thinking about and not have to juggle a bunch of thoughts.

Mind mapping is a good idea, here. It can often lead to other inspirations, too. Try that and see where you end up. Don’t be surprised if you find ideas for separate writing.

Happy writing! Next up, rewriting and revising.

-JB Steele

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