(A table of contents is available. It will be kept updated throughout the series. This series will remain open for additional posts.)
Part Two: Where Inspiration Lives
As far back as the Greeks, and even earlier, creative souls have called the source of their inspiration a muse. In fact, part of the Greek pantheon were the nine muses, personifications of art, history, drama, music, and other topics besides. In literature of the time, as well as many of Shakespeare’s plays and other literature going forward, a plea to the muses to inspire the writer, creator, actor, etc., was often put at the beginning of the work. This invocation has continued on a thousand other fronts and transformed from the Muses as mythic goddesses to muses as whatever a person’s source of inspiration. For some people, a muse can be a literal person, for others it may be music, or a specific genre, a theme or idea, or even a set of colors, pictures, or images. A muse can be anything that give you inspiration.
I have never been a big proponent of the idea of muses. There are plenty of shows, movies, anime, and real life stories of people who depended on that muse, and as soon as there’s any kind of chance of losing that muse, the person depending on it loses the capability of doing any of those creative endeavors that they’d built themselves on. They lose their very essence of creativity and feel that they no longer match up to their internalized sense of self. That’s awful, and there’s no reason for it.
A thousand quotes exist that say something like, “You can’t wait around for inspiration to strike or you’ll never get anything done.” All of us who are set on creating things need to learn a very vital ability: creating and seeking out our own inspiration. When you put all the power into the hands of something or someone else, you give up all your own agency. You must learn to seek it out yourself and how to bring yourself to the point of inspiration. Keep that power close and guard it jealously by evaluating what makes you feel inspired.
The first step to coming up with plot is to seed an idea in yourself. That’s where inspiration comes in. Inspiration dwells within you. You feel it stirred by something you see or read, but it wouldn’t inspire you unless you already had a leaning toward it. Know yourself. Know what you’re passionate about. Take time to sit with yourself and consider what things you love: the images that make you pause, the feel of the music you play to bolster yourself up, the things that happen in the world that you find yourself thinking about.
What kinds of stories do you want to tell?
Knowing that is the first step in being able to shape a story and a plot that you are passionate about writing and inspired to keep writing. To help develop the skills to inspire yourself, consider collecting the things that spark ideas. Maybe it takes the form of a block box where you stash little cards and pictures and lines and song titles, or perhaps it’s a blog where you have a good tagging system, or a Scrivener file filled with it, or a bulletin board where you have visual reminders. Changing the medium from virtual to physical or vice versa can be a helpful change of pace. Store all those little details so that when you’re running low, you can look at them, read them, listen to them, and remember what you were going for, or find a new idea to work with, or discover something that might be worked into what you’re already doing.
Give yourself the key to your own inspiration.
Next up: Tailoring story length!