With my fifth book underway, and after so many characters, places, plots, love angles and love triangles later, my friends and colleagues often ask me, “Where do you get the inspiration for writing?, How did you come up with that character?, Where did you get this or that idea?, …”. There’s not one answer to this question, as the ideas and inspirations come to me from everywhere. It might be while I’m showering, or walking my dog, or it might be something that I read in the newspapers or magazine, that triggers an idea, which later converts into something else. It might be a comment from a friend, or a postcard from a far away place. But what I think is the most important for any writer, is to write down your ideas – write them in a notebook, on your computer, or smatphone or tablet, record it and keep it safe. I find it helpful and inspiring when I am browsing through my random notes, thoughts and ideas. Often the notes I saved spark another thought or idea, and before you know it, the book title, or the book character, or the entire novel has been born.
Writers’ Digest magazine published 90 years worth of author secrets, and I thought I would share some with you today, which are related to Inspiration and Ideas. It is fascinating to observe what has changed since 1920-ies, and it is equally astonishing to realise how much good, sound writing wisdom remains the same.
Author Secrets: Inspiration & Ideas
“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed quickly, to trap them before they escape.”
“Good writing is remembering detail. Most people want to forget. Don’t forget things that were painful or embarrassing or silly. Turn them into a story that tells the truth.”
“Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.”
“I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’”
“Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You’ll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I’m still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don’t worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told.”
“As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second chance at biting into our experience and examining it. … This is our life and it’s not going to last forever. There isn’t time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write.”