I’ve always found the question about “where do you get your inspiration” funny. Not in the funny-haha way either. I find it…strange. Perplexing. Because to me, inspiration has always been all around me. I don’t know why I started playing the ‘what if’ game but I remember playing it even when I was four or five—whether it was in overhearing a conversation on the school bus, or reading a headline in a newspaper or, nowadays, online. So when I get asked that question, which is pretty much a staple on most authors’ interviews, I have to bite back my “how come other people don’t see all the stories just waiting to be told?” It’s sincerely asked–I can’t imagine living my life not seeing the possibilities.
I found this graphic on author Patricia McLinn’s Facebook page the other day — and I may have actually shouted “Yes! That’s totally me!” Because it perfectly describes how I think. How can people not see that partially closed door and think “burglar” the way I do? Does no one else drive during a snow storm late at night and wonder what might happen if your car conked out, who might answer the door at the house you just passed?
I mean, how can you not see a headline like “Newly found dino bigger than a Boeing 737. And a T. rex. Combined” from the Washington Post the other day, and not switch it so the scientists bring it back to life and look, now we’ve got lots of these giants beasts roaming the earth. Oh, wait, Stephen Spielberg already did that in Jurassic Park, didn’t he? Or maybe instead of a skeleton the body was complete, frozen in the arctic tundra, and when they bring it back to examine, the scientists let loose some strange virus that threatens the modern day world? Shoot, that’s been done too (in The Thaw.) Aha! I’m not the only one who plays that same “what if” game. Now to come up with the idea first and make a ton of money like Spielberg. (Hey, I can dream, right?)
Okay, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Still it boggles my mind to learn that other people, non-writers, don’t play the what-if game. It’s so much fun!
But it also needs to be said that because writing is about so much more than just the idea behind the plot, or behind the characters, inspiration can mean more than just where I find my ideas. Sometimes it takes something to inspire me to sit down at my computer to write every day, to open myself up to criticism, and even the pain of telling some of my characters’ stories. I also find inspiration from the emails readers send me, telling me how they fell in love (or lust) with one of my characters. Or words of support from a reader’s comment on a blog post. Inspiration can be a beta reader, or an editor, leaving a note in a manuscript – even something as simple as “LOL” or “Love it!”
Those types of inspiration are golden, and for someone who hid her writing for years and sometimes is tempted to go back to that type of anonymity, they often are the reason I continue to write every day. So next time you read a book that you loved, let the author know you loved it. Drop her (or him) a note on their Facebook page, or tweet about it. Email them or leave a note on their website.
Because you may turn out to be their inspiration to keep writing.