Mother Nature, Nightmares, and the Treadmill
Itching for inspiration? Who isn’t? Where do you get it? Where does it come from? The answer is anywhere and everywhere, if you know how to look and listen.
Did you ever ring and run as a kid, smack down a bully, or play truth or dare? Ah, the merriment of childhood. Carousing with the neighborhood young’uns, hurrying home when the streetlights lit up, catching frogs and fireflies, well, these recollections are inspiration. Skip ahead to teenage angst where mean girls ruled the lunchroom and boys and girls kissed at their lockers. Shoot your inner child a text and reconnect, then mold those memories into scenes, characters, even plot.
Recline on a beach chair, toes in the sand. Relax to the roar of waves hitting the shore. Listen to the cacophonous squawking of gulls. Dance in the rain, freak out during a thunderstorm, prance barefoot in the grass, spy on a spider spinning a web, stroll through a sunflower field. Get the picture? Mother Nature is inspiration 101.
Where else can we draw this elusive inspiration from? Dreams and visions and nightmares, oh my! That's right kiddos, I've got nightmares and I'm not afraid to use 'em. I created an entire fantasy novel around an old Native American couple, a pink mountain, and a shadow. Sounds innocuous, but as a kid those three scared the crap out of me, more than The Exorcist and The Omen combined. (millennials and gen z’s may have to Google those movies.)
Book titles, story premises, and other ideas creep into dreams nightly. If you struggle to remember your nightly adventures in the morning, grab a pen and paper while you caffeinate. If you’re an artist draw the scary monster or the sight of you flying down Main Street in your purple pajamas. Can’t draw to save your life? Jot down what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt.
Nothing tickles my writing bone like catching someone's vibes. Read their energy: positive, negative, stoked, humorous, distrustful, ranting, and a thousand more possibilities. Use what you identify to set the tone of a scene. Spot a crotchety old man in the grocery store arguing with the cashier or a tough-talking, impatient lady in the post office; steal the vibes they give off to create a character. Borrow the chi from a yoga instructor or the blazing spirit of a wannabe teen rock star, singing their heart out in your neighbor's garage, to generate a feeling of serenity or electricity.
Inspiration hits me while hot water warms my soul in the shower, it strikes when I’m tipsy from three sips of wine, when I'm walking my scaredy-cat dog, eavesdropping on conversations, (Did I say that out loud?) rocking out to music, wishing on a shooting star, whipping up a gourmet meal, and yes, while running on the treadmill to nowhere.
Picture this, the treadmill faces a large bookcase, with tons of classics, best-sellers, and the work of prolific authors. I'm in awe perusing the titles and wondering about the authors. That right there is motivation. Spotify’s playing my favorite tunes, and I’m in my zone burning calories. As I sweat and rack up the miles, all the best ideas, sentences, and character dialogue flood in. This is some good stuff. I grab my phone and talk into my Notes app.
Never underestimate the power of people, animals, places, objects, feelings, and anything else that spurs the imagination. All of it is inspiration.