Monday, October 4, 2010

Inspiration is as Tricksy as Hobbitses

October is one of my favorite months, and I'll tell you why. Not only do I love pumpkin pie, dressing up for Halloween, and the leaves beginning to turn orange (which happens to be the color I love best), but it's also the beginning of two of the most exciting seasons: Fall, and NaNoWriMo season. I'm sure you're all well-acquainted with Fall so let's move on to the latter. For those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place in November. You write 50,000 words in 30 days and try to stay sane. That gives those of us who're already crazy an edge; we've got nothing left to lose. And that's why November is my favorite month.

But back to October . . .

The NaNo site gets rebooted every October 1st in what can only be described as a lovely little makeover. Everything is cleaned out, including the forums, and shortly thereafter everyone comes flocking back by the hundreds. Writers from all over the world, brimming with creativity and a desire to do battle with the blank page, descend upon the site like a ravenous horde of speed-typing, story-spinning, caffeine-guzzling . . . well, like a bunch of writers.

It is glorious.

Being of the literary species classified as 'writer', I'm one of those who come excitedly clicking back on launch day. Let's just pretend I don't lurk around the site off and on year-round anyway. But unlike many of my fellow NaNo-ers, I'm usually completely blank as to what I want to write about come November. This usually leads to a month where I chase my muse around like a drunken pirate in a pre-politically correct Disneyland ride. We go around and around, sure, but we don't really get anywhere. And I find that's how the pursuit for story inspiration usually goes.

You see, sometimes, and often, inspiration is very elusive; it's like searching in a dark room for something, except you don't know what you're looking for until you find it. It strikes at seemingly random, and usually whenever is most inconvenient. Like in the shower, or while you're trying to go to sleep. Whenever you don't have access to a pencil, paper, or computer, basically. It's tricksy like that.

Even so, I've found there are ways to coax inspiration from even the most stubborn muse.

Music is inspirational in a lot of ways. It can capture anything from an idea to something more ambiguous like emotions. A few lines of lyrics can often prompt a scene, dialogue, or even a whole plot! Similarly, music has been proven to stimulate the brain, and the brain likes that. When the brain's happy and awake, it's more willing to come up with those bestselling ideas. True story. In fact, I'm sure there are some actual studies out there that explain that in a more scientific fashion, but yes. I highly recommend instrumental and classical as they allow you more room to interpret as you will.

Humans tend to be very visual creatures on the whole, and sometimes we need to visual stimuli to act as catalysts for some idea or the other. The internet is an excellent resource, allowing you to look at anything from medieval art to modern-day photography. You never know when a picture will supply that inspirational spark!

The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton

Other Literature & Media
I'm not supporting plagiarism here, of course, but sometimes the best inspiration comes from someone else's work. Anything from film to music videos can sometimes provide that sought-after inspiration. If nothing else, studying from your favorite and least favorite books can lead you to discover what you do and don't like about them, and you'll know what to focus on and what to avoid writing in your own work. For me, I've found that history is a good source to draw on; some of it even reads better than fiction!

Brainstorming with Family/Friends/That Poor Guy Who Asked You For a Pencil
Kidding about that last one (mostly) but it is always helpful to toss ideas back and forth with a friend or family member. Brainstorming sessions are invaluable at all stages of the writing process, but especially when starting!

I believe Jack London said it best when he said, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

The aforementioned methods are only a few that have helped me over the years. I'm curious, dear readers, to know what sort of things you do to lure the ol' muse out of hiding. What are some of the best ways to find inspiration that you've found?

* In case any of you are curious and would like to follow my progress throughout November, you can find my profile HERE. And if you, too, are participating in NaNoWriMo, do let me know! ^^