Inspiration is a funny thing – and it takes lots of work.

You hear talk of the ‘muse’ – the ephemeral spirit that provides artists with their ideas. Others suggest that simply by sitting down and beginning to write inspiration comes.  I suspect it is both of these and many more things.  For me it can be something someone says in passing that gets me thinking or something I read online which was the case in my first published story or something I read in New Scientist.  For me the easiest way to get inspiration is when someone gives me a topic or sets an emotion plus a place.  That gets the juices flowing even when the topic seems difficult to pin down.

Recently for a writing exercise I was asked to ‘interview someone living or dead’ in 1000 words.  The hard part was actually not the word limit but making such an interview interesting rather than a history lesson with the interviewee only quoting dates and facts of their exploits. I chose Sir Arthur C Clarke because I had been researching geostationary and geosynchronous orbits to find one of my favourite authors had an orbit named after him.  That turned out to be quite simple.  Other stories from the 15-20 writers who regularly come to the critiquing sessions were amazing in their style and variety.  It seemed even when facts and dates were included they were entertaining.  One centered on Leonardo Da Vinci being interviewed on ABC Radio via a new machine that allowed such things to occur.  Another humorous story told of the difficulties of time travel and how one might find oneself imprisoned or being a witch/warlock by suddenly arriving in the throne room without explanation to interview Queen Elizabeth I.

Another recent topic was ‘how I found out about sex.’  How much do you give away about yourself in such a topic or do you avoid it altogether?  I took the latter option and wrote a Barbara Cartland type of fictional story – it caused quite a giggle from the ladies who immediately recognised the style.  There were several revealing biographical stories but each different according to the writers age and generation (50’s or 60’s).  As expected there were two explicit ones (from the gentlemen).  None of the stories were the same.

One thing these topics do is stretch the writing muscles.  It was agreed at the last meeting of the Eurobodalla Writers that we would swap one topic in October for a story around ‘conspiracy theory’ as a result of the commemoration of 9/11.  That is going to take some thinking about as any conspiracy needs to sound plausible.  So, do I try to write a science fiction or horror or fantasy?  It seems to me fantasy writers in many ways, are all about conspiracies in the hidden agenda’s of multiple characters – wizards, kings/queens, mystics, gods and demons all have their own agendas working against the protagonist.

So now I am off to research how to put together a good conspiracy theory.  I note that a lot of good writing is based on solid research.  For me that is a large part of the fun and a great learning experience.  And don’t they say that learning should be a lifelong experience. YAY to that!




  1. Imogen Dent · September 22, 2011

    The Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer made a great remark about inspiration in an interview a few years ago – which I now can’t find, drat it. I’ll go home, look it up in my commonplace book, and come back tomorrow better prepared…

  2. Imogen Dent · September 23, 2011

    Found it:
    “Inspiration is an unpredictable state, and the irony is that you have to prepare much more thoroughly for the unpredictable than for the predictable.”
    – Thierry Fischer, Director, Utah Symphony Orchestra. Interviewed on BBC Radio 3, c. 2003.

    I love this quote – the more one thinks about it the more it is ticking!…

    • Cat Sheely · September 24, 2011

      Imogen, thanks. Thats a wonderful quote. And you are right, it does tick.

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