Inspiration; or, what being creative is not.
The idea of being creative always conjures up ideas of a flash, an incandescent burst of inspiration that powers an idea for a couple of years, through the doldrums, the tempests, and finally to completion.
But it ain’t necessarily so. In fact, you can tell by how I worded the above paragraph. A burst won’t power anything for more than an instant. It takes perseverance and drive, not to mention obsession to make it work. It’s all in the execution, once you have that original idea.
But that original idea, that must be a flash, no? Just a bit? A tiny bit?
Maybe. But in my experience, it takes something slower, more contemplative. It isn’t the EUREKA!! moment. It takes a second, and third look, something that makes you think, now that’s odd. Let me give you an example
I’ve been driving kids to school for a few years now, and seen different types. One time I had this carpool that included Joseph. He was a year older than the other kids, and bigger also. And he bullied them.
Joseph was about twelve at the time, and his parents had left their native country on very short notice. It turns out his dad was escaping some bad debts. I thought, no wonder he’s a bully. He left behind all his friends, all his extended family. Poor kid probably needs help, somebody to talk to him. Then I thought again, in my usual dark way.
What if the story was a cover. What if this boy was not a casualty of the flight, but the cause of it? What if he had done something so evil, so heinous, that his father was told by a good friend to run. Take your family, take that malcreated child who did what he did, take this money and run. If you stay, then don’t expect a second chance.
It could have been anything. Maybe the kid killed a child. Maybe he committed rape. But whatever it may have been, he brought misfortune on his own family.
From that point, I could write anything. It could be about the life of a serial killer, or how his family deals with him, how his schoolmates contend with him, it could be anything at all. Any combination. It’s a starting point, a foundation.
Writing is like that. A central point, probably something in the news that sticks in your mind and you cannot shake it loose. You play with it, touch it, taste it ( yes, it is a bit like sex. More than a bit, to be honest)until you have it right. Like I said, perseverance, obsession, and more than a little psychosis. You have to think like an unwell person, at times, and explore all the possibilities. And then run with it. Or maybe it runs with you, to see if you can keep up.
Sometimes, in act quite a few times, it seems that the idea is in the driver`s seat. I imagine myself driving down the I-87, and some mood would hit me and say, right. Turn right here, it looks interesting. And I do ( I’m talking about writing not driving). This part, the turning off the main road is inspiration, yes. But what you do with it and where it takes you is the work, the art of writing. You have your basic idea, maybe a bit of a plot sketched out, and now you fill in between the lines.
The point is to look carefully at what you see. Don’t shrug things off, don’t take things for granted. The best ideas are in plain sight. It may be the inspiration that starts you off, but it’s the leaving yourself open to be inspired, the ability and need to look twice, three times or more at something that does the trick.
You make your own lightning.