Monday, January 13, 2014

A Creative Ramble

You are wrapped in the golden silence of a ceiling-to-floor booklined study, hunched over the oak desk on which 50-odd pages of your latest manuscript are spread out...

A cool pine-scented breeze wafts gently through the open window. From the third-floor level, you can soak in the green landscape and distant mountain peaks.

Pen poised in mid-air, you and your muse in perfect harmony, as your mind collects a myriad of images, all restless and impatient, waiting and hoping to be chosen as “the one”, the next popular idea for the epic story unfolding. You examine the next idea...


Your eyes pop open. The rancid smell from your neighbours overfried lunch assaults your senses, while the brat screaming at the top of his lungs eliminates every trace of the verdant pastures!

Creativity gone – in a puff of smoke (and that’s from the jalopy that has backfired in its tenth attempt to get going!)

Goodbye exotic writing location!

Hello blank Wordpress document...

The myriad of images scatter, scared away by the string of vocabulary which has been unleashed by Brat Mama, who appears determined to compete with the toddler, in the Who-Can-Scream-The-Loudest category. New images pop up. They flood the creative well. This includes the mouthful that may be delivered to Brat Mama, censored words that are far removed from the epic world of the booklined study moment. But wait. Some of these thoughts are good. Mmmm, can’t rule them out completely. There could be some gems hidden amongst that batch. Great ideas for that scene on conflict.

Okay, back to the Word document. Type a few sentences. And then... blank. Meanwhile, the screeching contest has subsided. Desperate for a few more writerly ideas, you entertain a fleeting moment of madness... maybe the screeching contest should continue... there’s a need to wrap up the conflict scenes. Ha! The muse refuses to budge!

So what next?

I think that the essence of creativity doesn’t really take place in front of the computer, or hovering over a blank sheet of paper at the oak desk. It’s all around you, every day. It takes place in the totality of your day-to-day life, everything that has happened before you actually sit down and face that blank page.

All life experiences contain numerous creative moments, story possibilities which are waiting to be shaped into workable ideas and then put down onto paper. You have to be aware of your surroundings – all the time! It’s in the snippet of dialogue at the supermarket checkout point, that billboard image you pass everyday, a classified newspaper advert, that obituary that brings your character to life. And you need to explore different ways of doing things - for example, make contact with somebody you’ve never met before, interview a journalist, street artist, video game designer...

There are hundreds of places where characters are lurking, waiting to be found. For example, you need never be stuck with character ideas again. Find inspiration by checking out 365 encounters with strangers HERE. And remember, that’s only one example.

So watch the world go by.

Look around you.

Connect with people.

And listen.

The story ideas are there, all waiting to be snatched up.


Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Yes! Life gives us input for our creativity--even if sometimes it might seem to slow us down. We are the sum of our experiences--even the little things--and a part of those experiences ends up on the page when we write.

Murees Dupè said...

Great post! I don't always think of all life's experiences as inspiration, but I should. Great job!

Tara Tyler said...

you always know how to grab the reader with your posts! great advice - we need to watch, listen, and feel - then we can make our writing POP!

happy monday, mish!

J.L. Campbell said...


So true that we need to be open to the experiences around us. They help make our stories come to life when we sit down to write them.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And pay attention when watching movies, because there are some good characters there.
Or is that just me?

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

The myriad array of local folks who ride TheBus where I live offers an endless stream of inspiration for dialogue and character development.

Terrific list of 365 encounters with strangers, Alex.

Unknown said...

Inspiration can even come while watching Backyardigans with you children!

I rarely get silence OR have a set time for writing, so if inspiration strikes, I grasp it quickly & jot down my thoughts on whatever is available.

Great post!!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's how most stories begin - with people.

Michelle Wallace said...

Lynda - we are the sum of our experiences, exactly, and we need to tap into that.
Murees - and there are hundreds of moments...
Tara - I like the idea of making our writing "pop"... it reminds me of that fizzy tongue sherbet.
Joy - and I suppose that's why writers are encouraged to write what you know.
Alex - does that mean I need to watch more telly?
Gail - when people are not aware of being watched, then they act naturally, which is informative and inspirational.
Terry - Backyardigans? Sounds fun. I'll have to google this. Jotting them down immediately is important. I've lost ideas because I failed to do so.
Diane - and interesting characters make for interesting stories.

Emily Ever said...

I've found that you have to find what feeds you creatively. Creating is output, but you can't do it if there's no input.

If you feed on the people around you, great. If you feed on conversations you overhear, cool! Whatever gets your juices going.

I get a huge creative boost from learning about history and about other cultures because I always try and imagine what their lives much be like.

Christine Rains said...

Loved this! It happens to me a lot. Noises derail me. Just taking a walk or sitting there at the library can bring such inspiration. I love to people watch.

Suze said...

Alex's comment made me smile.

You do well with these posts, Michelle. I still remember the last one I read as having been executed with panache!

Unknown said...

I find most of my character inspirations from movies and TV. But I also get a lot of fodder from real Egyptian people I meet here (in Egypt). Great post! :)

Bish Denham said...

I agree! Sit in a mall and watch people, take notes... Sit in some woods, listen/smell/see everything, take notes. Jot down snatches of conversation as you wait in a check-out line.

Ideas are as numerous as grains of sand.

Leslie S. Rose said...

So true. I keep a special notebook just for my trips to Vegas. I've gotten pretty good at using the NOTES app. on my Smartphone so those ideas on the run don't flutter away.