I had a blogger reach out to me yesterday to ask the age-old question, “where do you find inspiration?” She went on to explain to me that she loves blogging and writing for her local paper, but feels that itch to do more. She hopes to write a novel, but has no idea where to begin. Sound familiar?
I preface what’s to follow with this: There is no correct answer. Everyone has a unique process, and it’s usually the thing that comes most natural. It’s often from some medium that makes you feel alive and creative. However, if you’re having trouble recognizing what that is in your life, I have a few things I hope will help. I promise that if you truly desire to write, it’s in there already. Sometimes we just have to go fishing for it.
Because I am a human being, that’s where I start first. For me, the voice shows up before anything else. I have no plot, no setting, no secondary characters. I usually start with one small notion I find fascinating and start exploring it. Accents, locations, smells, intentions….everything else is born in time from this tiny little seed. It might start as small as picturing the first person that pops into my head, and just writing a list of adjectives about him or her. I’ll often see a character’s face the first time while listening to a great song. I’ll purposefully put on music that makes me emotional, and just start going stream-of-consciousness on the keyboard. It doesn’t need a point….that grows later too. The one thing I make sure of is that a being is speaking. I might later realize that voice died years ago, or is inside a cat….but I start with something that had consciousness. Life.
If you’re just more setting driven, and need a picture to get yourself going, there’s a simple fix there too. You don’t have to buy season tickets to The Met, or hop a plane to Paris. Just google “pretty landscapes,” and start scrolling through the pictures. Write down which emotions the depictions evoke…then start writing about the person who’d be feeling that way, or the person who’d fit in a picture you like…or who wouldn’t fit. One of these seedlings will eventually take root. Once you hear a character’s voice, it’s going to keep talking. It’s going to tell you where to take it. Don’t be afraid to step into it’s shoes, give it the ol’ first-person try. Be it.
Do you plan every word you’re going to say to every person all day long? No. You run into people, or circumstances, and you respond. Your character is no different. Make a live thing that interests you, and just write. Eventually that character will stumble into some drama…but it has to actually get to it. It has to move. It cannot stay still, or it does nothing. And the only way it moves is if you do. Make your fingers dance….start scribbling. For God sake’s don’t over think it…first thing with a pulse that comes to mind. There’s a reason it came first. Write about it, even if it sucks. You will stumble onto something that won’t. In the beginning, there are only small sparks. Nourish them for a fire.
Here’s a prompt for you today to help you get started:
Every night before you go to bed you see her standing there by the mailbox. It never fails. At 10pm, there she’ll be, barely visible through the dim moonlight.
And go! (Use all five senses)