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Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Inspiration Strikes

Hello everyone. I'm Catherine Gayle, the newest member of Lady Scribes and otherwise known as Baroness Blithe. You can call me Cat, if you want.

When I first started writing, I thought myself a poet. To my utter dismay, my poetry tends to fall on the side of verbose, which is the complete opposite of what poetry
should be. Poetry is all about saying the most possible with the fewest amount of words, whereas my writing tended to say the least possible while using the most amount of words. (Which, by the way, is something I still to have problems with. But that is for another blog post on another day.)

In order to write a poem (even a bad poem!), however, I needed inspiration. I am not one of those writers who can simply sit down at the keyboard or pick up a pen and notebook and write. There must be something that grabs me, calls to me, beckons me to write.

I did try to force the words to come out. I would think up a theme that I wanted to examine, and try to put to
gether words that would convey my message.

It didn't work.

I needed something else, something more concrete. So, I started to look for inspiration. While watching a movie or a television show, I would be overwhelmed by an emotion, and try to use that feeling as a starting point. No luck. Then I would pore over books of artwork and photography, hoping to find an image to spark an idea. Still, nothing.

Finally, inspiratio
n struck at a moment when I wasn't expecting it: while walking on the treadmill and listening to my mp3 player. A lyric that I'd heard countless times before washed over me in a new way. It wasn't much. Just a single line from a song.

But from that one line in a song I'd heard dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of times, a poem was born. The words
started coming at me so fast that I didn't know what to do. I was at the gym, and had nothing with me to write on, so I had to dash out to my car (where I still had nothing) and rush home, so I could jot it down before I lost it.

I still tend to get most of my inspiration from music, but I'm no longer attempting to write poetry. Now my focus is on historical romance.

A song will play on the radio, and whether it is a song I know by heart or one I've never heard before, story ideas start flowing through me. Maybe it won't be a full story. Sometimes it is a character, or a scene, or a simple line of dialogue.

Lyrics to songs aren't the only things that give me ideas these days, either. I tend to listen to classical music while I write, and sometimes a particular swell of the orchestra will generate a new direction for what I'm working on. If I'm watching a movie, the score can plant a seed.

I have at least learned to keep a notepad and a pen in my purse, by my bed, in the car, and in the kitchen. I've even been known to type out a text message on my cell phone and save it to my drafts, when something handier neglected to present itself. You just never know when inspiration is going to strike, and you have to be ready for it.
What inspires you? Where do you get your story ideas? Can you plan for moments of inspiration, or do you hope they will just arrive?


  1. Welcome to the group, Cat! I don't have any regular source of inspiration. But when I'm stuck, I like to take something that has already been done and twist it or move it to a different time and place. If I can identify a cliche, then I can change it just enough to make the entire story spin off in an unexpected direction.

  2. Cat,

    Like you, I am inspired by music. I've also had a lyric strike me in such a way as to generate ideas. Story fantasies, I call them. This usually happens when I'm driving and listening to music.

    I'm also inspired by the older population I work with as a social worker. Often, a single element or emotion from their life story hits me in such a way that I know I have to write something that conveys similar emotion. I never take their stories, because that would feel like a betrayal. But if I can find a way to share the deep love they have for another person or their strength in the face of hard times, that is what I strive to do.

    Oh, and for some reason, the shower is quite inspirational. LOL. I always solve problems in the shower.

  3. Gail, that's a great way of coming up with story ideas. Usually, I tend to fall into a cliche and then have to find a way to make it a little different. But to use that cliche as your springboard is great, because you're starting from that perspective instead of finding yourself stuck in it.

    Samantha, I both love it and hate it when I'm driving and an idea strikes me. It's great to have that idea, but I have to find somewhere to pull over and write my idea down. Too bad it isn't easy to write and drive, LOL.

  4. I can't plan for mine, except by keeping pen and paper nearby. I have three places I tend to come up with ideas, and actually expect them.
    1) In the shower. I don't know what it is about a nice, hot shower (not a bath) but I inevitably have terrific ideas for how to fix stuff or throwing together some different things. There's no real way to plan to jot these ideas down well, but I have a good memory. :D
    2) Driving. I used to drive 140 miles round trip for work. I grew up on the road. There's just something about driving that frees my mind to think and scamper ahead of me. My smart phone has proven it's usefulness time and time again while driving.
    3) In bed. Either just before I go to sleep, a dream (I have really crazy, vivid dreams), or in that in-between stage of sleep and wakefulness. A notebook has it's own shelf next to my bed.

    Those are my top three places. ^__^

  5. Cid, thanks for commenting. It sounds like you and Samantha have a lot of the same places that get your creativity flowing. I'm like you when it comes to laying in bed. Actually, my whole life, I've had a hard time getting to sleep--because I can't shut my brain off. I used to think up stories where I'd be in them. I'd spend weeks on one story, seeing the characters in my head, before moving on to something else. That's how I knew I might have the capacity to write a novel. I sure had plenty of imagination. So, like you, I keep a notebook right by the bed so that I can flip on the light and jot something down before going to sleep.

  6. I generally daydream my plots, but music sure helps flesh out the tone of certain scenes. And weirdly, not all of it fits the classic mould for my regencies. There is some nice music featured in recent TV shows that make great background - Dexter Season 1 springs to mind.

    As for the notebook thing, there's one in my handbag, one beside the bed, one beside my lounge room chair and I think I have a little lined book stashed in the car. If I could only work out where to tuck one when I go walking - I'd be a happy girl! Great blog.

  7. Hey, Catherine! Congrats on your first blog.

    For me - inspiration can strike at any time, usually when having conversations. Things will just pop in my head. When I'm writing, however, I need absolute quiet. The best time for me is the dead of night when there's no telephone ringing, no one vying for my attention. Just me and my laptop. :)