Inspiration: What Helps Me Write


You know about mood boards? During one blog tour (I think it was for Clara), a blogger asked me if I used mood boards to help me write. I had never heard of a mood board before and had to Google it. In those seconds between the question and Google’s answer, I had the image of a giant board that changed color depending on my mood and I couldn’t fathom how that was supposed to be helpful. Then, I discovered that mood boards are essentially a collection of pictures that evoke a particular mood or idea. Essentially, it’s Pinterest.

That idea of “collecting” inspiration, though, tickled me. Usually, if I had trouble writing, I played music or changed locations (e.g., moved from sitting at my desk to sitting at my dining room table). But I liked the idea of actively going out of my way for inspiration rather than just forcing myself to write. Jack London, after all, once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Over my two years of subsequent inspiration-hunting, I came up with the following methods.

How I Find Inspiration

1. Pinterest

Yes, I use Pinterest. It’s like tumblr but you don’t feel quite as guilty using it and there’s less porn. (Or maybe I just haven’t accidentally wandered into that side of Pinterest yet.) I enjoy using Pinterest because it allows me to set aside those images that evoke the feeling of a particular story. For example, if I see a beautiful painting of a mermaid, I may think of The Lands of Sun and Stone Series or, if I see the image of a monster in a trench coat walking down the street, I may think of the Bookwyrm series I keep threatening to write. By tucking these pictures away, I can look at them again later when I need a little help finding my characters’ voices and it helps me to mentally build the world of my story.

2. A Window

When I was growing up, I would lay on my bed and stare through the bars of my headboard through the window to the field behind our house. It was a very small field, edged with a line of woods. I knew that beyond that thin line was another, larger, field and beyond that field were deeper woods with a ditch cutting through them. Because I had physically walked this area so much, I could mentally walk it. Sometimes, I did that. Other times, I just watched the way sky, sun, and cloud interacted with the trees, brush, and weeds. I watched birds and small animals. Ever since then, seeing a window is an invitation to daydream. If I ever get stuck, I find myself turning to a window.

3. A Noisy Cafe

This was an accidental discovery. I really love The Clay Pot Coffee Shop. One day, I went there rather early to work. Well, I kept right on working to lunchtime. The Clay Pot offers lunch specials and because so many professionals work in downtown now, it’s not surprising to have a full house. The high, exposed ceiling and utter lack of carpet makes for amazing acoustics. Normally, that would annoy the living crap out of me and have me reaching for my headphones. But I didn’t have them that day. I had to endure and focus. It was that environment of noise that helped me to stay focused and to write.

It doesn’t take cacophony for me to write. A small amount of background noise is helpful. It’s as if I need an obstacle to overcome.

4. Walking

If I ever get really stuck or am feeling overly restless, I go for a walk. This is one of those things that has me longing for the “deep” country again, where I could wander for miles and never see a soul.  But, beggars can’t be choosers and all that, so I go for a walk to find my missing inspiration. Usually, it’s just down to the end of my road and back. I don’t know what it is about physical movement that’s so helpful but it is.

I know that these little tidbits don’t sound like much but inspiration can be easily found if you know where to look. And, yes, there are those days where there is no inspiration to be found. Pinterest and windows are just distracting; noisy cafes are just headache-inducing; and walking only leaves me tired. There are days when everything I write is utter and complete crap. Norman Mailer once said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.” The longer I do this writing thing, the more I realize how very true that is.

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