I’m not one of those people who has a million plot bunnies scurrying around in their brain (I wish). Story ideas usually come to me in one of two ways: through music or exploring new cities. I really don’t know what it is about these two things, but they get my creative juices flowing in a way nothing else can.
The musical inspiration is one thing. I can turn on the radio anywhere, flip the dial, and instantly connect with something. The exploring new cities, well, that’s a whole other thing.
Most of the time people go on vacation to take a break from writing. To let their mind go and relax. But for me, that has never really ever been the case (much to my family’s chagrin). It’s not like I go looking for inspiration – but it always seems to find me.
If you follow this blog regularly then you know my latest manuscript, a YA Historical, was inspired by a trip last year to the Field Museum in Chicago. There I was minding my own business, checking out dinosaur bones and old coal mines, when WHAMMO I came across a word of note about an item being displayed. Suddenly all the cylinders in my brain were clicking, and I was opening the notes app. on my phone to scribble out ideas. Now, I didn’t go looking for inspiration, yet there she was in all her glory, begging me to write this story, and I couldn’t say “no.”
Want to know the item that inspired me? Here it is…(note: this is not the exact plane from the museum – but a similar version)
I just finished what I hope will be the final revisions on this manuscript. The process has taken well over a year and has been one of the most challenging projects I have ever taken on. It is also the manuscript that has completely swallowed me heart and soul, and given me more joy than anything else I have ever written.
With the final sentence revised on this manuscript, I left for New York City, ready for some much needed rest. But, of course, that rest lasted a whole two days, and I blame that on this lady…
I was scurrying around the base of the Statue of Liberty on a gorgeous June day when something on the audio tour caught my attention. Quickly, I paused the narrative, rewound it, and listened once more to an amazing story about the day she was revealed, and again, WHAMMO – inspiration! I’m not going to get into details about the story, but let’s just say it’s going to feature a cool cast of female heroines!
For me, new cities bring out a curiosity I don’t usually have. When I walk past an old, crumbling home I stop and take pictures, wondering who once lived there and develop a backstory in my head. If we take a wrong turn down a street and pass a historical sign, I pause and read it, questioning whether or not a story could be born from the details shared on the sign. While I should be resting and taking a break, my brain is working overtime to discover every unhidden story within the city I’m visiting.
I’m not saying you have to travel far and wide to be inspired. You can go to a part of your own city, be it ten or fifty minutes away, and find inspiration. Perhaps the next idea can come from a new exhibit appearing at your local museum, or from a speaker appearing at a library on the other side of town. My point is this: sometimes exploring new things, wading into new experiences, can open a part of your brain that seeks new ideas. The only thing that matters is you have to be willing and open to those ideas and ready to receive them – even if you intend for your brain to be on a break!
What about you? Where do you find inspiration? I would love to hear about it in the comments!