Wow, that’s no simple question! And yet, like writing, the answer is pretty
direct. How does one write? You just do it. Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere. The answers are simple. It’s the act that’s difficult.
What I believe inspires me is music and life. I’d like to say that I sit at my desk and listen to my iTunes on random and voila! I have a story plot! But it takes some serious mojo for the elements to align and beam their creativity.
The alchemy of inspiration is a tad unpredictable and there’s no recipe to follow. Sometimes an image pops into my head–we’ll call that the Athena Affect. I have this moment or this essence that I want to convey and I start asking questions: how did we arrive here? Why is this significant? Is this the impetus or conclusion?
So what causes this brain snap?
The problem with the Athena Affect (images born fully formed) is that such scenes are often cut from the draft pretty early. They spawn a story but remain unincorporated, an elusive wisp of possibility. With Strong Enough I was itching to write something, ANYTHING, and kept pulling at feelings, settings, notions until I made cloth with which to weave. However, the first image/scene didn’t survive. It fell away as the story came together. Now it resides in my idea box (brain), waiting to be satisfied.
On the other hand, I’m in the middle of a dystopian novel–I have a draft courtesy of a NaNoWriMo challenge–and the initial image persists while the draft is to be scrapped because the first approach didn’t work.
Another story, this time a paranormal comedy, jumped from a blog of a delightful writer. It leapt up and chest bumped some arcane knowledge of mythology that’s always rolling around in my head, and they blended and reformed right before my eyes. The execution has been less dynamic but finally recognizing the comedic potential helped. A little inspiration infusion happened this past weekend when I finally, FINALLY, watched Warm Bodies. Loved it as much as Zombieland and it confirmed the desired style for my story.
Which brings us to life. It wasn’t my experience that confirmed my paranormal story but it was me living my life, allowing in other creativity–creativity for my personal enjoyment. It was reading other books, blogs, or even listening to music. However, life is a huge mountain waiting to be mined for experience gold. Once Strong Enough took shape, I used interviews and research to bring the characters’ worlds into focus.
Inspiration isn’t just the first AH HA moment. It happens continuously throughout a project. It can be a song traveling through your headphones to dance with your intention, crafting a new complexity. It can be a silly commercial on TV or bizarre dream that spins into the solution. All AH HA moments are essential whether they come at the beginning, middle, or end. Inspiration is life and life is inspiration. It is constant and energetic.
The great thing about these interview questions is that I’m discovering (and REdiscovering) some interesting things. Thank you!
Ellen Harger was born at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. As a military brat, she moved often during her childhood–something she never resented and continued as an adult. The constant starting over influenced her first published novel, “Strong Enough.”
At 14, her family settled in Missouri as civilians, permitting Ellen to attend one high school. She stayed in the Midwest to attend a small liberal arts college, studying creative writing and art. After 11 years, she moved to Boston. While there, she continued to study creative writing in Cambridge. Ever willing to explore new places, she moved next to the San Francisco Bay area. After 11 years away, and loving the symmetry, she returned to the Midwest to finish “Strong Enough.” She has published a poem, “Guidelines,” and released her novel as an e-book. You can find her at:
Ellen Harger’s Website