Friday, 27 February 2009

Bonjour et bienvenue.

I can't offer much in the way of coffee this morning as France in a bit behind the rest of the world in this regard, no fancy Coffee shops here, so it's either tiny cups of strong expresso or a grand creme[large milky coffee]. However as we are not far from Limoux I can offer Bucks Fizz made with the delicious sparkling wine, Blanquette de Limoux, plus lovely fresh croissants. That should wake us all up!

I have to confess that I have been worrying all week about what I was going to write this morning and having sleepless nights, and it will probably be worse next week , but hey that's just the way I am. But I'm sure it will do me good to stick my head above the parapet, you will be gentle with me won't you?

So here goes, my question to you all this week is who or what do you turn to for inspiration. When the ideas have dried up and you don't know what direction your work is taking what steps do you take to get going again. My first novel started life as just a snapshot of a scene in my head that has gradually appeared piece by piece, no fancy plotting for me! So how do I get my inspiration, well quite often it's when I'm out running or cycling. The biggest problem with this is remembering that bit of inspired dialogue or that wonderfully descriptive passage til I get home. Now that I am cycling more I intend to take my notebook with me just in case, but I can't do that when running. I have a notebook by my bed as the middle of the night is another of the times I am likely to be inspired, convenient I hear you say. To prove a point the idea for this post came to me in the wee small hours, ah that explains it you reply. And I carry a notebook with me wherever I go, I have had some great ideas travelling on motorways, with the OH driving you will be pleased to know.

As I am in need of some inspiration at the moment I am really looking forward to reading all your insights.

There I have done it all I need to do now is press the Publish button, oh if only the real world was this simple.

Here is a parting thought from Goethe:

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it,
Begin it now.

So here goes!!!!


JJ said...

Excellent post Sheepish, thank you. I'll have a creamy coffee thing and some croissant please.

I'm a great believer in the act of writing firing the synapses that create... but that's easy to say.

I have to remind myself also of Julia Cameron's artists' dates. It's like a bank balance; I don't believe you can keep taking out of it with out filling it up again. It isn't just words either - not just reading, all sorts of stimuli will fill the well: landscape, learning, music, plays, dance. All those things to do and to look at always make me feel more inspired.

As a final point: I rarely get ideas at night. I WANT to sleep!

Flowerpot said...

Lovely quote there Sheepish. As for inspiration - tricky one. I usually read Elizabeth Berg; she 'does it' for me so to speak! Sometimes a good film will do it, or a walk on a sunny day. Sometimes just not trying too hard does it - thinking of something else and then the inspiration comes later. ie letting the subconscious filter through. But it's a tricky one and I hope you get some sleep soon!

Flowerpot said...

Lovely quote there Sheepish. As for inspiration - tricky one. I usually read Elizabeth Berg; she 'does it' for me so to speak! Sometimes a good film will do it, or a walk on a sunny day. Sometimes just not trying too hard does it - thinking of something else and then the inspiration comes later. ie letting the subconscious filter through. But it's a tricky one and I hope you get some sleep soon!

Lucy Diamond said...

Bucks fizz a warm croissant! Now you're talking...

I find ideas come to me when I'm doing really mundane things like washing up, or walking the kids to school. Or, if I'm stuck on a plot point, having a bath and a chat with my husband really works - I think it's something about being in a confined space with no distractions - either that or the large glass of wine anyway!

Have a good weekend everyone

Leatherdykeuk said...

No tea? *cries*

I write.
I'm on a dozen sites that offer prompts - some weekly, some daily - and I write flash fiction and drabbles for them. Once in a while a prompt will 'fit' a story arc and them I paste it into my 'Write it Now' program for later use. Other times I'll flash write several pieces of the story I'm writing.

For instance, the last three months have seen me write 100 or more flashes involving the character of a little girl, Lucy. I'm actually writing her at age 14, but all the flashing about her younger days have really fleshed out her character.

Clare Sudders said...

Ooh, I think my gran used to have that Goethe quote framed on her wall. Something with the same gist and by the same author, anyway.

Now then... inspiration. Well... I have to admit that various substances work quite well for me. All right then, one in particular. The smokable one. I have millions of ideas in that state. Sometimes I just spend a whole evening scribbling ideas furiously in a notebook. They come out faster than I can keep up with them, and I become very bad company for any poor sod who is trying to spend an evening with me. Of course in the cold light of day a lot of the ideas are rubbish, but some of them have been gems. A similar thing happens when I'm drunk, but only at a certain key point of drunkenness, before I start slurring my words, dropping the pen and forgetting what I'm talking/thinking about halfway through my sentences.

Fiona said...

Great post Sheepish.

Dispite my moaning about them, walking my dogs brings the best ideas. Although by the time I've got home, I've either forgotten them or they don't seem so good.

NoviceNovelist said...

Morning Sheepish - defnitely a bucks fizz please - it's almost the weekend! Flowerpot - I love Elizabeth Berg's writing also! If I'm feeling a bit dry on ideas I reread favourite books - I have a little bookshelf where I keep books I have really enjoyed, or been moved by or impressed by the writers style etc. They are a bit of a lifeline and often I will only need to reread the first few pages to get me inspired. I also like a bit of a pound on the treadmill with VERY loud music - that usually shakes some cobwebs loose.

ChrisH said...

Oh hello, I'm in need of a comfort drink and a croissant as I sent my TMA in early, felt smug and have only just learned it wouldn't open. Grrr! Panic!!!!

Don't feel nervous, Sheepish, we're all in the same boat! The best inspiration for me is a bit of success. Sometimes it's reading some stunning writing, although that can be a bit depressing, and sometimes it's reading something and wondering how the hell it got published which makes me roll up my sleeves and get stuck in. Other than at it's back to the same old answer - just write! Seriously, the practice of making myself keep a regular notebook, instead of thinking, 'I'll remember that!' or grabbing a stray piece of paper, has been incredibly useful and productive. I do agree with JJ's comments about filling up the well though.

Helen said...

Morning all. I get mine from chatting to husband or talking to son strangely enough. I have also got ideas when walking with the pram but with no paper to hand I had to call home and leave a message to myself on my answerphone!

Calistro said...

Mine's an espresso - I still haven't woken up properly!

Ideas... most of mine come to me randomly

- walking to the train station

- chatting with friends (I have been know to pause mid-conversation, get out my notebook and scribble down an idea for a story or novel)

- reading books by other authors (that one seems to work best when I'm stuck with my novel. It's like my subconscious mind is kicked into action when I read someone else's words)

- sparked by newspapers, magazines, TV programmes, films

- just as I'm about to fall asleep (which is why there's always paper and pen by my bed)

Which is all very well if you don't have a deadline but if I need to FORCE an idea (say there's a themed short story competition) I:

- get out a piece of paper and scribble down everything that comes to mind for that theme (a kind of mind map). No idea is too stupid because it might spark something else

- go to and look up images of that theme to see if it prompts anything

CC Devine said...

I love that Helen! A practical solution to not being able to write down your idea when out and about.

Wonderful quote Sheepish. I find that inspiration comes to me when I'm walking about either on my way to/from somewhere or simply when I'm out for a stroll and people-watching. Inspiration comes at the most unexpected moments such as overhearing a conversation on the tube or reading a newspaper article which sets my imagination off wandering.

It's always so thrilling when you are struck by something that has the possibility of being great, be it for your current wip or a later one. The rush to write it down and convey the jumble of exciting words in your head...ah, you know what I mean!

Debs said...

I think I'll decline any food as I've just eaten an entire Milka chocolate bar, and feel a little unwell now, which serves me right.

I'm inspired by various things:
- walking the dog
- chatting to friends/husband
- films/newspapers
- a quotation/painting/photo usually inspires some story or other
- if all else fails, I just start writing bits and pieces into a notepad and before long I have a page of all sorts of ideas (most probably rubbish).

Love the quote too.

Anonymous said...

I'm considering a Bucks Fizz, but I'm still making my mind up ;o/

I find inspiration comes from all kinds of places. Sometimes the usual ones and ones that others have described here. Sometimes when you least expect it as well. I've got quite a good memory (when sober) so I don't use notebooks that much, though I have been known to whip one out.

Exercise, particularly running for me, clears the mind before filling it again. I wish I could find the key to my bike as well.

Basically, anything except staring at a blank page/screen!

Lucy Diamond said...

Captain Black, that was a terrible joke! (but one that made me burst out laughing nonetheless!)

Rowan Coleman said...

Am loving the Buck Fizz puns too! I hesitate to say this but ideas aren't my problem, I'm choc full of ideas which might make me sound a tad smug. But I do often struggle with execution, ie getting them out of my head and onto the page in the best way, sometimes I find I find it unbearably clunky. Then I talk to my agent. I love my agent - she's a genius she always see that little piece of the puzzle that could pull it all together.

K.Imaginelli said...

oooo, a French espresso & croissant for me. C'est magnifique! (I'm totally missing Paris right now)

Sometimes imagining my characters doing the things that I can't do (ie go to Paris, Venice, sing in a rockband, etc) inspire me.

Sometimes flipping through magazines or watching a movie helps get my ideas flowing.

also, thinking about the kind of story I want to read helps because chances are what I really want to read doesn't exist, so i have to write it.

Great question!

KeVin K. said...

Ideas? I never bother with those. I just write.

Okay, that's not strictly true. But I do believe, as others have said, that the best way to get "unstuck" is to write. I often freewrite to prime the pump. (I harbor the fantasy that these freewrites will someday produce some zen-like state wherein writing becomes an effortless outpouring. However, like everything else that outpours effortlessly, my freewriting exercises tend to be good for little besides flushing.

Sometimes I get stuck on an assignment. For example, I'm currently writing content for a website connected to a game. It's an outlandish small town newspaper full of whacky news stories, horoscopes, personality profiles, etc., aimed at 9-to-12-year-old boys. 288 40-60-word pieces. The first few dozen wrote themselves. the next few dozen were work. Then they became hard work. I'm now less than half way done and can only do four or five at a sitting. How do I get inspired? Do something else -- anything else -- so I'm not thinking about the project. Clearing my head.
Usually I advise against working on a second (or third) project when trying to get around a roadblock in your main effort. The theory being you can't renew yourself while pouring your creative energies into something else. But in this case I've been writing military fiction. Grim, unrelenting, miserable combat. In the rain. Freezing rain. I'm still only averaging about 100 words a day for the website, but I'm generating a lot of combat footage for my next war story.

I usually do not renew by reading other writers. When I'm engaged in a project I do not want another's style or voice creeping into my work. I watch old movies, go for walks, or just veg -- thinking nothing and staring out the window. As long as I don't allow myself too much time for these things, they clear my mind and let me get back to work. The danger with things like old movies or staring out the window is they can lull you more than rejuvenate you; they become a trap if you allow yourself to overindulge.

liz fenwick said...

Buck's Fizz sounds bliss - the literary festival is great for ideas and exhaustion :-)

Cornwall inspires as do old houses and locations where you can feel history. I also find that I flip through women's magazines and see what my eyes is drawn to and if it's something I keep coming back to....

Reading helps as does listening to other writers (don't get to do it as much as I like but always trying). last Night Penny Vincenzi mentioned she got the idea for her last book an absolute scandal at a drinks party! Ideas are every where I think its being open to them and having somthing close at hand to jot it down. Love the phone message Helen :-)

Will write uyp the literary festival on the blog this week. This morninag am off to the censor session at 9.

Lane said...

Sorry to be so late. Nasty computer problems all week so a Grand Creme and croissants are just what I need.

Great post and quote Sheepish.

I find walking the dogs helps prompt inspiration as does obsessive people watching, although you've got be a bit sleuth like about that. Yesterday in the market, a woman was on her phone telling someone about her ovaries. I had to follow her. You would too, wouldn't you?

The other thing that I do is nap. The 'creative nap'(Heather Sellers/Julia Cameron). 20 minutes of dozing but not really sleeping.
If you're tired though, there's always the danger of dropping off completely and blowing the whole the whole afternoon. However, when it works, it works well.

Have a good week everyone.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Sorry. Wasn't well, yesterday. We went to see some piglets and I got chilled and had to go to bed. Well, the piglets were a bonus. We went for coffee at our local farm shop and their Gloucester Old Spot sow had not long since had six little squealers who were having a great time charging about.

Inspiration. Ideas. Too many of those. Not enough time to do anything with them. Very often, they arrive when I'm in the shower, thus by-passing all the notebooks and digital recorders I have about the place. I am seriously considering in investing in one of those underwater pencils that divers use.

When I get stuck with my writing, I do one of two things. Turn off the computer and go and read or do the washing up or fix the latest broken thing in the flat. I usually get half way through something like this before I have to rush back and start writing. Or I just write. Sometimes, I find the problem is finding the correct word or phrase that releases the log jam (hmmmm - chocolate log; hmmmm - jam; sorry, Homer moment there). My current answer to not being able to write one book is to write another - productive procrastination.

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Large choclate for me please I expect the Limoux is flat by now as I as ever am late. I get scenes in my head running like video clips and trailers for moviesof books as yet unwritten and these form my inspiration. I do have a dictaing machine to carry in my pocket but it just kills inspiration to speak it outloud for me so I tend to keep it playing in my head until I can write it down.

KayJay said...

I'll have a cyber-Bucks Fizz and croissant, although in real life it's a sobering decaf tea and a bowl of Special K.

Definitely walking. Possibly whilst listening to music. Apparently there was some research that said something to do with the calf muscles pumping the blood in a particular way to the brain that is conducive to creative thought and problem solving. Oh, I dunno. Can't remember it well enough to actually explain it convincingly, but seemed to make sense at the time.

Reading mags and newspapers is another good one - especially if you force yourself to pick one thing and write a few paras based on whatever the article is about.

I think that most of my best ideas have actually been lurking for a while. It's digging them out, shaping them and committing to them that's the tricky bit.