No, this post isn't about cats, though I do find cats quite inspiring. ;-) I was just going through some old pictures and thought this one was adorable. And no, there's nothing wrong with your screen, his eyes really are two different colors. ;-) This little baby's name was Alvin, and he, along with his brother and sister (Simon and Theodora), were some rescue kitties who spent some time with me about ten years ago. Wasn't he a cutie? ;-)
So, onto the real topic for today: Inspiration! An innocent sounding word for such an important occurrence. But where does it come from? How does it start, and where does it lead to? After all, nothing ever happens anywhere without it, does it? No matter what task you are talking about, it can only be accomplished with inspiration. Right? So how do you get inspiration?
The initial prompt to begin a task is the first part of inspiration: the need. Making a meal? Well, isn't hunger at least part of your inspiration? Either yours or someone else's, now or anticipated for the future. Someone, somewhere, at sometime is going to be hungry, so you're inspired to make a meal. Of course, taste and imagination are also important if you're going to make that meal into something edible. Building a home? Well, weren't you inspired because you thought someone would need shelter? You were inspired to fill a need to have a structure for someone to live within. Whether it was your own need, or a desire to fulfill that need for someone else.
The need that inspires you might not be nearly as concrete as hunger or cold. Our souls need to be fed as much as our bodies. Have you ever heard the song Bread And Roses? If not, you should listen to it. I think this rendition by Bobbie McGee is particularly moving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdI5eomL5Qo . For instance, if you have a story to tell, it can nag at your mind more persistently than any hunger pang nags at your belly.
So, all kinds of needs might inspire you to action, but recognition of the need isn't the only thing required for inspiration. You also need an idea for how to meet that need. If your need is hunger, the way to meet it is, on the surface, obvious: you eat something. But what do you eat? Well, that's where taste and imagination come into the equation. Your taste and imagination guide your inspiration to help you find the idea for what you should eat. Writing can work the same way.
In my opinion, all writing is, to one extent or another, allegorical. Something you have seen, heard about, experienced, or in some way become aware of, has stuck in your mind. Your heart tells you that a story is there that needs to be told. But what is that story, exactly, and how do you express it? Well, that's where taste can become important. If your taste leans towards the macabre, your story may evolve into a tale of horror and bloodshed. If your taste is more fanciful, a story full of mythology and magic might be better suited to satisfying your hunger. Or perhaps you're a romantic at heart, and your soul needs you to spin a web of love and passion. Maybe your taste varies with your mood and your stories follow. It's also possible that you prefer a symphony of flavors, and your plots are equally rich and complicated. Whatever your taste, you can see how it will guide your inspiration.
But, you say, that still doesn't give you a specific idea to pursue. True! Need will prompt you to action, and taste will guide the form that action takes, but only imagination can give your inspiration substance. If you need to make a meal, you might find your ideas in books about food, in shows about food, in your past experiences with food, in something someone told you about food, etc. But no matter where the idea starts, your taste and imagination will take it in new directions. In this way, each meal you make is a creation unique to you.
Likewise in writing, something sparks your imagination and off you go! For instance, not too long ago I was watching an extremely boring remake of a classic movie. The only reason I decided to watch this movie in the first place is that it starred a well-known and accomplished actor. I had hoped that his acting chops would make the movie better than the trailers made it appear...but they didn't. So, I was sitting there, slowly falling asleep, and all of the sudden something happened on the screen that caught my attention. I later found out I misunderstood what I was seeing, because I wasn't really paying attention, but at the time it seemed as though someone was mistakenly attacked by the people who were supposed to be guarding them.
You see, the scene was of a dark alley in the middle of a slum at night. There was almost no light, and the person who was attacked came out of a building in a place where their guards weren't expecting them to be. As I said, that's not what actually happened in the movie, but that's what I initially thought happened when I saw the scene. So, my busy little mind took that idea and ran amok with it. Little thought mosquitoes began buzzing around the question "what if...?" and it wasn't long before that spark evolved into a storyline. I don't want to tell you too much about it, because I intend to write this storyline into a series, but that thirty second clip from a flop of a quasi-historical movie quickly turned into an idea for a cyberpunk series with at least two novels.
Just so you don't think that was an unusual occurrence, I'll tell you how I came by the ideas for some other novels. To start with, there are the books I've already written. The idea for Taken By The Huntsman came from a dream I had after a philosophical debate I had with a friend about the nature of consent. At that time, I was also researching European mythology (because I'm a nerd), and somehow while I slept my crazy imagination wove those two elements into a fantasy, romance story that turned into Taken By The Huntsman. The other stories in the series evolved from musings on that pesky "what if...?" question about the characters who gave life to my first novel.
A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a politician on TV expound, as politicians are wont to do, on a topic about which he had not a clue. As someone who has spent much of my life in the study of various scientific disciplines, I find it particularly irksome when politicians try to reduce extraordinarily complex concepts, which literally take years to master even the rudiments of, and of which they have not even the slightest comprehension into sound bites. And then write laws based on the sound bites which were born out of their flawed understanding. Bitter? Who me? Nah! ;-) So once again, my imagination ran away with me, and this time took that "what if...?" question into the realm of urban fantasy. I plan to write that series as well, though I'm not yet sure when. :-)
Then today, someone on Facebook posted a picture of a cat wearing a bridle and reins with a rat sitting on the cat's back holding the reins. The first thing I thought when I saw that picture: there's a novel there! And then, bingo!! The "what if...?" questions started churning, and they haven't yet stopped!! I feel another story being born. I'm not exactly sure where it will end up, or under what genre it will fall, but I have the distinct feeling that I'll be adding to my "to be written" list soon. ;-)
So...yeah. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that imagination sparks are waiting just about everywhere. You just have to leave your imagination open to igniting from them. Taste? Taste is going to be different for everyone, because everyone likes different things. That's a good thing, in my opinion, because it keeps literature varied and interesting. As you may have guessed, my taste tends to lean towards the science fiction and fantasy genres. ;-) As for need, I honestly can't tell you where that comes from. It's only been recently that I've felt that gnawing, scratching drive to turn my ideas into stories and then set them free for the rest of the world to see. But I do think that if you feel the desire to write, then you already have the need.
And there you have it folks, my take on where inspiration comes from. Need, taste, and imagination. In my opinion, it takes all three to make the difference between being struck by inspiration, or being struck out. I'd love to hear your opinions. Comment below and tell me: what do you think? :-)