One of the greatest inspirations in my world of literature and understanding of the written word came in the form of my grandmother. I remember many times sitting with Grandma Potts when I was a child and listening to her talk about writing poetry. For her the flow of the written word and the rhyme and verse was an organic process. One of my favorite memories of my grandmother was sitting with her on the front porch of my childhood home watching the sunset. We had pulled up two chairs and relaxed as we watched the light blue sky slowly turn pink, orange and red. The clouds floated across the sky like puffs of smoke slowly painting the horizon. Nothing can compare to the awe and silence a perfect sunset can bring to my heart. My grandmother and I didn’t speak for the entire time the sun was going down. We didn’t need to. The sunset said everything that needed to be said. Every time I see a sunset, I remember the time I spent with my grandmother and the perfect communication we had between God, nature and a woman and a child. Sometimes words are not necessary. A sunset fills me with the inspiration of the peaceful moment with my grandmother and I can feel the words flow through her to me.
Take advantage of those moments of inspiration. For you it may not be sunsets and grandmothers ringing the words in your heart. Your inspiration may come from dark nights with full moons and shadows, or it may come in the form of bright sunshine filtering in through green leaves. Maybe your inspiration comes from a dirty, gritty city street, opening doors into the dreams and lives of people you have never met. Journey outside of yourself and your mundane existence and find your inspiration and remember, write down the messages as they arrive.
When I was a young author I was told an artist must suffer and be full of angst in order to be produce beauty, but is this true? Can’t beauty come from a beautiful place as well? I know I have suffered and I have experienced angst. Every person in existence has experienced the darkness. We wouldn’t be able to appreciate the light if we didn’t know darkness. Oh, don’t get me wrong, my life hasn’t been all bad. I mean, I don’t suffer from a horrible disease. I haven’t lost a child of my own. I don’t have any debilitating addictions. I have a good career. So far life has been pretty fair for me. Once, in an acting class, I performed a scene from Trojan Women. In this scene I played a woman who was lamenting the death of her infant son at the hands of the Greeks. I poured my heart into the scene and felt I had done a beautiful job. Another woman also played the scene. Afterwards, when everyone was discussing the scenes, she said I could never do as good of a job as she did because I had never given birth to a child and so could never imagine losing one. My fellow classmates were up in arms over that comment. Not only did they not believe her statement, but they defended my performance vehemently. I could imagine the pain because everyone experiences loss and suffering, everyone feels pain and everyone can emote that sorrow. I have used this experience as inspiration for my writing. I don’t need to suffer to understand the angst of my characters; I just need to be able to empathize with those who suffer.
I’ve heard it all: You’re too young. You haven’t experienced enough to be a good writer. Science Fiction is not real writing. In order to be a good writer you need to live a tortured existence. You can’t write about it unless you experience it. Well, I’m calling crap on all of this. I am a real writer. I write Science Fiction and Fantasy and my stories are good and they are classic. I have had bad things happen in my life, some of them have been very bad, and I have had good things happen in my life. I started writing when I was very young and some of those stories I wrote were great. I plan on writing until I am very old and those stories will also be great. Age doesn’t matter when it comes to writing stories. Genre doesn’t matter when it comes to telling stories. I’ve read great stories from eleven year-olds all the way up to a hundred and eleven year-olds. You can write great stories too, no matter your age or your life experience. There are plenty of people out there who tell me they want to write a book. They have a story they want to tell. My advice to them is for them to write. Put aside the excuses and the self-doubt and just write the story. My books come from inside of me. Your stories need to come from inside of you. Just write.
Find how, where and when your best writing happens. My best writing happens at night, usually between 1:00 and 4:00 in the morning. I sit in my office with my computer in my lap and the TV on some late night/early morning drivel. My husband is usually asleep and has been for hours and I should be in the bed beside him. But, instead of sleeping, I write. I always find my best inspiration in these early morning hours. Everything is quiet, there are no bills to pay, no pressure to cook dinner, do laundry and dishes or any of those other mundane chores that weigh us down so much. I become a Master Writer in these hours.
I would love to live in the hours between midnight and five in the morning. When I was working in nursing homes and hospitals I always loved to work the night shift. Everything interesting that could happen did happen during these hours. This is when ghosts would walk the floors and make their presence known. Residents would wake and wander the halls or call for help. Staff would tell their life stories, and yes, some of those staff members inspire characters in my novels. God would call some of his children home during these hours and we would witness this next step in the journey into eternity. These were the hours when miracles happen. These are my hours of inspiration.
Find your inspiration. There are many methods to opening yourself up to inspiration. It is important to find what works for you. When I write I need to eliminate all distractions. I write best in a quiet room where I can close off from the distraction of the world. Whether it is silence or music or family or nature, your inspiration is out there. Take the leap of faith into the unknown. Explore. Find what makes you a writer.
When it’s time to tell your story don’t concern yourself with all the grammar spelling and punctuation. Don’t let your Eighth-grade English teacher intimidate you. Writing a story is a process involving many steps. Finding inspiration is just the first step in the long journey. Write what inspires you and the rest will follow. Most of writing happens in the rewrite anyway. Allow yourself to get lost in the inspiration. There is a healing and a joy that comes from writing down your story. Even if the story never sees the inside of a publisher’s printer you know it is out of you and is now part of the literary world. Writing great stories crosses genres and literary form. The words speak to all of us, no matter how we define our writing style. Don’t apologize for what you write, even to yourself.