Thursday, October 15, 2009

Inspirations for Writing

What is inspiration? For thousands of years, people have believed inspiration – that creative spark – derives from the gods/God/Spirit. The Wikipedia article on inspiration does quite a good job providing an overview of the different views of
the genesis of inspiration through the ages. Go read it. Really. It's good. I'll wait.

Fascinating, no? I love that there are so many ways of thinking about inspiration. As a (still in recovery) Type A, I love that there are things about creativity and the creative process that we have no control over. What a high, when that idea magically appears, or the solution to the problem reveals itself.

To digress, one of the many things I love about writing is being surprised. When I outline, when I don't outline, the story goes where it wants and it's not always where my conscious brain wants it to go. It's a constant fascination to me to see the way the story grows, sometimes out of my conscious control. And one of the great joys, the addictive alchemic high of writing, is when a previously unknown character wanders into a scene and changes the course of the story. I love my protagonists, but I absolutely adore the characters that appeared out of nowhere and stole my heart, and made the story better. In The Pilgrim Glass, it was definitely Dubay (I kinda want to be him when I grow up). In The Midnight Son, it's Håkon. And in The Hummingbird, it's Alyce and Brother Augustine.

It happens in every novel and novella I write, and it gives me a shiver every time it happens. As a matter of fact, it happened within the first three pages of my ONoWriMo story.

So, these characters wander in. At some level I have been inspired to bring forth these characters (again, even if my waking brain doesn't recognize them yet). So. Who is doing the inspiring? Is it within, or without? Does it come from the collective unconscious, a la Jung? Genetic memory? God? My own personal combination of genetics and personality and brain goo? A combination of all of the above? Does it matter? Personally, I think it is a combination of the above, because that combination is inextricably interconnected.

Heather talked about refilling the well, and that's a crucial component of inspiration, too. I do that through travel, through long bubble baths, and taking the drive over Highway 17 to the coast. Sitting and watching the waves come in over at Davenport is the quickest way for me to get reset emotionally, spiritually energetically. In fact that reminds me: I'm due for a visit.

In a more direct way, what also inspires me are the What If? questions. When my husband and I were traveling in Burgundy in 2002, we visited the Wine Museum in Beaune. As we walked down a spiral staircase, I looked out the window. It was clear glass, but old (or a replica) with the lovely seeds and wavy lines. It put me in mind of stained glass, and I got to thinking: what kind of personality does it take to repair stained glass? And then, days later, we visited Vézelay and my world was rocked. And out of that developed Jonas, and The Pilgrim Glass.

Those What If? questions are often brought up by travel, and by history, and especially by those things together. I want to know what life is like there (wherever "there" is) now, but especially what it was like in the past: what did they eat, what did they think, how are they different, how are they the same? What looked miraculous to them? How did the landscape act on them, and they on it? How has the landscape changed, and how do we see it now? Is it the same? Can we find those same worldviews in ourselves? Do we see the same miracles?

So, that's what inspires me. What inspires you?

Photo: (c) Craig Allyn Rose Photography


  1. I want to know what life is like there (wherever "there" is) now, but especially what it was like in the past: what did they eat, what did they think, how are they different, how are they the same?

    Yes, that's it exactly. That's why I was a History major, and it's why I write.

  2. Anonymous9:43 AM

    "What if?" questions for sure. That's what its all about for me.

  3. I really want to go to Vézelay! I'd love to see more of Craig's photos. :)

    This is a great, thought-provoking post.