I get this question a lot. About a nano-second after someone digests the fact that I write, the inevitable question will be about where I get my inspiration. On hearing my response, I always get the sense that I have let them down somehow. As though they were expecting some ritual – “I only write on days that end in a Y while drinking Chai Tea, and listening to Mahler” or some logical routine, “I set aside 25 minutes each morning before I get my kids up and write whatever comes to mind” or that I would identify the “get your inspiration shop” just down the street.
Inspiration – for me at least – is not something I can reliably find or count on. It just is. (Or in the case of writer’s block, is not.) I suppose I could make up something that sounds thought provoking and “autho-rish” or I could come up with something suitably weird so that they’d walk off satisfied, but I figure they honestly want to know, so I honestly answer. Sometimes inspiration comes from the usual places – dreams, events in my life, local or global events that are in the news, and people I meet – but sometimes inspiration is sparked by a random thought or snippet of a song, a smell, a taste, or something I see. Sometimes I have no freaking clue where the idea came from. It just pops into my head and I can’t link it to a single thing that I am aware of.
My children inspire me not only in the ways that one’s children tend to inspire parents, but also with story ideas. My youngest child in particular will be a rich source of inspiration should I decide to start writing post-apocalyptic zombie tales or go down a totally Lovecraftian path in horror fiction. Nate is 7 and has an extremely active imagination; I think I have let him watch way too many SciFi, Discovery, and H2 shows. My oldest is 10 going on 30 and he tends to ask hard questions around why things happen the way they do. His questions have inspired me to jot down ideas for stories in a couple of different genres. His latest series of questions and answers have been around dogs. We recently acquired a puppy and subsequently lost our dog of 15 years within a fairly short span of time. Oliver made some observations about the dogs’ interactions that sparked an interesting discussion around dog’s memories and how they perceive the world. When we got the puppy, it seemed as though our older dog was “mentoring” her in how to behave with the family – almost a passing on of the care of the boys from the elder to the younger. Once Khaki was integrated into the family, it seemed Lui’Ka was ready to move on. “She was staying alive for us, wasn’t she?” he asked one night after she passed away. He has expressed an interest in writing a story with me told from a dog’s perspective, which I think could be fun.
My job can inspire me. One of the first novels I wrote (yet to be published due to needing a fair amount of re-writes) was based off of a “what if” scenario with a case I was working on. It’s a legal thriller told from the point of view of the paralegal, rather than the attorney or law student. I have another “yet to see the light of day” novel based loosely on some events from a prior employer that deals with the “what if” the company was really doing what people thought they were doing. In my current job, I can’t say much inspires my writing other than providing material for use in developing characters. I work with some interesting people, psychologically speaking, and one or two of them may just wind up in my current WIP.
I recently got an app for my smartphone that lets me write notes with a stylus or my finger when I am on the go. Prior to that, I carried around a small notebook and pen but that wasn’t as efficient as it sounds. You tend to run out of ink or paper at a critical moment, or worse, one of the kids drops some god-awful sticky thing in your bag and bye-bye notes. I love my handwrite notes app. Sitting in traffic and something sparks a thought; I just scribble notes on my phone to be expanded out when I have time. I can blend my grocery list with my novel notes and sort them later. Since my phone is with me almost 24/7 I can capture notes easily and don’t worry about carting around anymore additional stuff in my purse. Heck, my purse is an inspiration in itself. On any given day, you never know what might be in there. Need some duct tape? A clean sock? Wax? A dog bone? I’ve probably got you covered.
The latest thing to spark my imagination was coming upon a sign at a bookstore that said, “Words to Inspire.” Unfortunately, it was on a table with nothing around the sign. I found it ironically funny at the time but later it took root in my thoughts and it has inspired the beginning of what for the moment feels like a short story.
So what inspires me? In short, everything.
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.