Feb 17, 2010

One Cup of Inspiration, Please by T.D. Hawke

Ah, if it were only that simple. But really, it is.

“Inspiration is born of the need for self understanding and acceptance. We write to discover and accept who we are.” In other words, observation and experience are the tools of inspiration, but the need for self-love is its impetus.

I don’t write every day. In fact, having to write (or rather, the pressure to write) is the quickest way to do me in—I’m lousy under pressure but can write like a demon when the muse strikes me. And maybe that’s the thing. Writing just to write doesn’t necessarily make one a better writer, any more than is writing just to write better than nothing. Sometimes the ideas just aren’t there, and if you push it—if you make yourself write—often the best ideas don’t have the opportunity to form, in effect sandbagging those times when you could have walked away, relaxed, and perhaps had that brilliant “ah-ha” moment.

A dear friend pointed out that I’m “going to pop the bubble of all those ‘Write every day” people’” to which I conceded that a lot do indeed write every day, and more power to them. At the same time, how often have you heard writers say they have to think about a story? That they have to let it form and stew and come together in their mind? Tons. And I’m one of them. If I wrote the first thing that came to mind, odds are I’d go so far off track that when something really good twigged that I’d either have to discard the idea entirely, or back so far up in the story that I may as well start over.

So yes, sure writing every day works for some. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Whatever works for the individual, that’s what I think; just write in the way that works best for you and to heck with what anyone else thinks.

Did you know there are a number of writers out there whose work has influenced a nation, a world, but have themselves only written one or two books? Never mind that though. Writing has to be in you, but more importantly, it as to be fun. You have to want to do it and be a happy camper while you are. If you aren’t happy, if it’s not coming to you, then why bash your head against the wall until you loath it? And yes, you can loath anything, even if you want to like it.

Think of a little kid (let’s call him Tommy) whose parents force him to practice the piano. So there little Tommy is, twenty-minutes a day, right after supper, parked in front of the piano and pounding out tunes that make the neighbors cringe. At the end of that time, he shuts the piano and walks away until tomorrow’s practice when he’ll pound it out again. Sure he might get better. Sure he’ll learn the basics. But he’ll never love it, and I guarantee you, the first chance he gets he’ll stop playing the piano and take up something else… like decorating the cat.

In other words, it’s not fun, and because of that, about the only thing he’ll learn is to hate the piano with a blinding passion. Forcing yourself to write when it’s not fun and not coming to you is kind of like that—Tommy torture. At least, it is for me.

A writer never really stops writing; it just doesn’t always involve the use of a pen, pencil, or computer. Experiencing things and observation are forms of writing. Take, for instance, my mother’s day surgery, and the lady in the bed across the way who’d waited so long she fell asleep. Or the quiet man on one side of the curtain and the “talker” on the other—the one with tan shoes and matching corduroy pants… which were about all I could see of him under the curtain. Or my mother, who was so wired for sound that she turned speed talking into an art form (of course, bells suddenly going off followed a few minutes later by the announcement “Code Red, all clear! Code Red, all clear!” should get at least some of the credit.)

All of them will come back to you when you need them as characters or stories that seemingly write themselves. In other words, inspiration can come from anywhere. The trick is to recognize it.

Speaking of recognizing it, do you know your own past can be a wealth of inspiration, one where “honest writing”—the best kind of writing—will come from? For example, some authors have to travel to where they are writing about. They need to smell that air, touch that earth, see that hillsides. They need to feel the moment and put themselves there—right in the character’s shoes—and walk the walk. Why? Because nothing beats honest writing, and nothing is more honest that one’s own perceptions and observations. To commit sights, smells, scenery, customs and even dialect to memory so that they can write not just from research, but from personal experience. From honesty.

In other words, much of their work is real, if known only to them. But not everyone can afford to jet off to who-knows-where, and it’s to those (myself included) I say you don’t need to book a plane ticket, because you have your past. Better?—it’s unique because it’s all your own. And even better still?—it comes complete with dialogue, scenery, emotion, characters and even an outcome. Voila! Instant inspiration and instant honest writing, and you didn’t have to leave home to find it.

So one cup of inspiration, please. And fill it to the brim with your own unique observations and experiences. In yourself, you will find all the inspiration you need.

T.D. Hawke is the managing editor of The Oddville Press and would like you to think she is a professional pudding wrestler. She would also like you to believe she makes movies with such actors as Harrison Ford, Russell Crowe, Robert Downey Jr. and Christopher Walken. But she doesn’t. She’s just a longtime writer and confirmed coffee/chocoholic. She also may or may not rob banks.

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