Inspiration. Where does it come from? As an author, many people have asked where I get my ideas from. Now, to be clear, having an idea is different than a source of inspiration. In short, the difference is the manner of question. The idea is what we write. The source of inspiration is why we write. And, in a moment of reflection recently, I’ve categorized and reflected on the reasons why I write.
Now, I’ve already talked about where good ideas come from in another blog post, here, but this post, however, will be dedicated to the sources of inspiration for our writing. Although there are many, I am categorizing the ones that have impacted me in some way, shape, or form here and will break them down into categories and dissect each one.
First and foremost, many people cannot write about what they have never done before. Or, if they try, many times that writing can come out forced, confusing, or unintelligible and unbelievable to the reader. A rule of writing that I teach is: “Write what you know.” How can I write about bathing with elephants if I’ve never done it before? How can I write about what it feels to be high if I’ve never experienced it before? If I tried, most likely it would come out ingenuine.
It is because of this necessity that I dabble a little bit in everything. Also, it’s in my ENFP personality to constantly have many projects going at once and to be all over the place. However, it’s the author in me that wants to travel for new experiences, wants to try new foods, examines people that I meet with an absurd fastidiousness, does new things, sees new sights for those experiences that I can then write about one day. While on my travels, I’ve had multiple ideas for future self-help books that will eventually wind up in blog posts on this page when I’m ready to share them.
Yes, serendipity can be a source of inspiration. For many people, it is the biggest source of inspiration. Meaning, they don’t write unless they feel inspired. However, there is a very famous saying that goes: “If you wait for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” (Dan Poynter)
This is too true. Habit is more dependable for writing than inspiration ever can be or will be. Inspiration, however, is where our best writing comes out. As authors, what we have to hope is that habit and inspiration connect in a serendipitous moment to give us the proclivity to write words upon words. The problem with this collision, though, is that we cannot time inspiration. That is to say, we shouldn’t rely on inspiration to write, we need to consistently be writing something and then hope that serendipity takes over and causes us to produce a solid body of writing.
3) Drugs and Alcohol
While I do not condone the abuse of alcohol or the use of drugs, depending on the drug you take, inspiration definitely might present itself. Let me explain each of these.
First of all, alcohol actually inhibits judgment, but have you ever listened to your own voicemail or a drunk friend’s message to you at 3 a.m. before? The thoughts are not restrained, they are fluid, they are flowing and this also parallels work. There are many brilliant, great authors who liked to have a few whiskeys: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wilde, Poe, etc. Even the artist Van Gogh was a frequent drinker of absinthe. In fact, Hemingway even has a quote that I really admire: “Write drunk, edit sober.” This is because when we are drunk, our feelings, our emotions just flow; we don’t hold anything back, and that, sometimes, can be the best thing for our writing.
On the other hand, when we’re talking about drugs, it depends on which one is talked about. This is a topic, also, that I am not qualified to discuss, so instead, if you’d like more information on that, go here. That is a quora page that discusses this exact source of inspiration much more thoroughly than I ever could.
4) Relationships, especially heartbreak
If anyone knows anything about this source of inspiration it’s Taylor Swift. From “we are never ever getting back together” to “Should’ve said no” to “Blank Space” Taylor Swift has certainly had many songs that have been inspired due to relationships. Eminem continually raps about his relationship with Kim Mathers or his daughter Hailie in many of his songs. It’s clear, then, that relationships inspire us to write.
Furthermore, on top of that, the emotions in those relationships also control how long it takes us to sift through our emotions, to find the perfect words we need. “Spacebound,” a song about Eminem describing the feeling of being in love with someone perfect took around three months to produce. On the other hand, a diss song called “Killshot” which meant to hurt and wound MGK in retaliation for a song produced called “Rap Devil” took Eminem only 13 minutes.
While the two are not completely similar in compilation (Spacebound is about love and Killshot isn’t technically about a relationship), the emotions in each song are completely different. And, in all manners of things, it should be clear that emotions control how we write, what we write, and why we write. Answer yourself this question: When was the last time you wrote a positive review for something? Now, when was the last time you’ve written a negative review?
If you’re in the norm, I’d like to believe that you’ve probably written a negative review most recently, or, if anything, have written more negative reviews rather than positive reviews. That’s because it’s easier to write about something we don’t like, or, rather, we have more of a reason to write about something negative because we want to let our emotions unfurl and seemingly get back at someone or something that caused us to feel that way.
I, too, had a similar experience as Eminem when putting my emotions down on a piece of paper. In one of my last blog posts titled “This Feeling” I discuss the novel Love in the Time of Cholera and even give my own definition for what love feels like. You can find that blog post here.
Well, even more recently than that, I also found out how heartbreak felt . . . again. In my last two relationships, I fell head over feet for incredible women and was left hanging in midair, heartbroken, when that magic carpet of love got pulled out from under me. And, I’d be lying if I told you that this heartbreak wasn’t recorded in a section of a future novel-to-be. In fact, after the most recent breakup I wrote 1000 words in 25 minutes. To tell you how incredible that is, I’m going to have to also mention that my typical writing speed is 700-750 words/hour. If my math is correct, that’s around a 250% increase from my normal productivity.
On the other hand, when I wrote “This Feeling” (the 350-word section in the aforementioned blog post) it took me about one hour to describe love. The dichotomy for how relationships affect our writing is quite interesting to me. When we’re in love we have a hard time explaining it perfectly. Rather, perhaps, we want to make sure we explain it perfectly so we spend more time criticizing each and every word. We want it to be perfect, because in that moment, as we are inspired to write about an individual we love, everything is perfect. In this way, we only produce 350 words in an hour compared to 1000 in half an hour of heartbreak and turmoil where words flow to our emotional wreckage and things aren’t nice and tidy, they are messy and chaotic.
Whatever the reason is, there is no denying that relationships are a source of our inspiration.
5) A Muse
No no no, I’m not talking about the Muses from Hercules, but muses are a source of inspiration all the same. A muse is, more often than not, an artist’s lover. Again, they don’t have to be, and that is why I am including them in a separate category. In essence, they become the source of inspiration and creativity behind the paintings or words that flood the canvas or page. There is a nice article here about some of the most famous muses behind great artwork.
Muses are still a real-life concept even today. It’s no doubt in saying that Kim Mather’s plays some role of muse for Eminem’s songs. In the TV show Californication, Hank Moody has a few muses throughout the show, one being his wife, Karen, and the other a woman named Faith in Season 6.
6) Everyday Life
As should go without saying, everyday life should hopefully provide us some source of inspiration. This source of inspiration, though, is fading more and more. As a whole, I get the feeling that society is focused on capturing the moment on their livestreams or moments on Instagram or Facebook or TikTok versus actually living the moment when it is there.
To break it down even further, everyday life can be something as mundane as TV Shows, our friends, or even the books we read. As I mentioned earlier, we should “write what we know.” Many times, watching TV Shows like Madmen or Dexter can give us insight into things we may have never thought about before. To put this in other words, we can use TV Shows and books to supplement our knowledge and experiences.
For example, let’s say I am writing a scene where one of my innocent characters kills someone. I do not know what it’s like to kill someone, and I’m not going to actually do the new experience in order to find out how it feels (it’s illegal!). So, what can I do? How can I gain the experience needed to write about the scene? Well, this is where TV shows come into play, but it’s important that those TV shows be closely related to the genre and the scene that we are trying to write. Let me give you an example below.
In one scene in my first novel, I describe the scenario aforementioned, an innocent character kills someone out of survival. When writing this scene, I went back to specific episodes of Game of Thrones. In the second novel, The Curse of Pirini Lilapa, there is a boy who loses his father, but the father, before he dies, wants to make sure the boy knows the gravity of his position now. I’ve never lost my father; he’s still alive and I hope he remains alive for many more years. But, what then can I do to accurately convey this loss of a loved one? Well, I watched Game of Thrones and saw the interaction between Jamie Lannister and his father.
In my series, I have a few female main characters: Gabrielle Ravwey, Tundra Iycel, Brisine Berrese, etc. I have never been a female, though, so how can I accurately write from their perspective? Well, this is another reason why it’s also crucial for us to have friends from a variety of different social circles so that we can tap into their energy, at some level, and begin to understand them more, and then do what I told you earlier and “write what you know.”
I’m sure there are many more sources of inspiration. I found an interesting article here that lists more sources of inspiration, however, I don’t agree with all of them. Rather, most of them do not apply to me. These are the ones that I have personally witnessed and recognize to be my sources of inspiration. What is your go-to source of inspiration?