Where do you find inspiration?
For me it comes from everyday life. Getting up, going to work, talking to people, groceries, housework; all the daily details of life are potent sources of inspiration for me. There’s so much to see and learn every day if only I look around me. Getting up each morning is a complex series of actions and reactions. I have an alarm clock but it rarely rings. My body is so used to getting up at 5:15 am that I wake ahead of time. I know that this is true for other people. My father used to do the same thing. But it’s not true for everyone because if it was I wouldn’t have to wake my husband up every morning.
That difference makes me think about how each of us has different reactions to similar situations. I love writing Fantasy and SF, so sometimes I’ll muse about how people wake up in worlds where there are no alarm clocks. Do they live their lives entirely by the rising and setting of the sun? Are there other methods by which they know it’s time to do specific things? In a Fantasy world there might be a temple that rings bells at particular times of the day. Bakers have to wake up extra early in the morning to prepare their wares so they’d have an hour named after them.
Farmers with milk animals always have to be up at a specific time so that they can tend to their animals. Having been in 4H as a girl with milk goats I know very well how programmed both the goats and the owner become. Tending to their needs becomes the structure of your life, prescribing limits within which you must remain if you want them to keep producing and be healthy. Not to mention how the milk itself is handled. If not stored properly milk spoils quickly. Even if handled well it’s a very perishable resource that has to be used or thrown out. Milk production is an industry no matter what level of technology your people have. Even a small group of hunter/gatherers who have milk animals will have to pay attention to it. A tiny detail, the main character asking for milk with her meal, can thus create so much going on behind the scenes.
Sometimes it’s not so much the details of how my life works that inspires me. It’s thinking about ‘if I lived in a world where magic existed, how would that change my daily life?’
Take the milk from above. If you have magic that’s fairly plentiful, relatively easily controllable, you can have mages who specialize in creating boxes that preserve whatever is put inside of them. It’s a logical thing to do as an early mage. I have this food or drink that will go bad. How can I save it over the long term? Humans here on Earth developed cheese as a method of preserving milk. I can see mages deciding that they had to create artifacts that kept the milk from spoiling. If they did early enough in the world’s development then there might not be cheese. Then again, there might but it could be much less common.
In a world where magic was very rare and hard to control food preservation probably wouldn’t the an issue that mages would care about. They’d save their magic for more important things, life and death matters that only they could address. That changes how mages are perceived, from tradesmen who are not fundamentally different from bakers, butchers or smiths into strange beings that common folk cannot understand. It changes the world and changes how the story will progress. Sometimes I find that inspiring and other times mage as tradesman is far more fun to work with.
The books I read always give me inspiration.
I don’t read as much as I used to due to a combination of working too much, writing too much and carpal tunnel problems that make holding books up a challenge. But I do still read every single day. Sometimes I reach for stories, things to take me away from the here and now so that I can forget about everyday life. The beautiful prose or powerful stories I read are incredibly good at driving me to improve my craft. I can’t help but read once for the flow of the story and then going back to read again for the way the words are put together. There’s so much to learn from reading other writers and seeing how they create the images in my head. I try hard to learn from everyone that I read.
Other times I reach for reference books because I don’t want to escape the world. I want to learn something new. Reference books inspire details within my stories and occasionally give me all new story concepts to work with. I’ve read about the strangest things out of pure curiosity and then had those things feed into my stories. Learning how to create braids for kimono led to researching methods of creating rope which once changed how a ship worked for a story.
The people I know, both online and in person, are a never-ending source of inspiration for me too.
When I was much younger I complained to someone, a teacher or librarian I believe, that I couldn’t find stories that were exactly what I wanted to read. The authority figure told me that if that was true then I should write my own stories. I probably took that comment far more to heart than they intended at the time. I write my stories because they’re what I want to read but can’t find anywhere else. So many people inspire me. My parents encouraged me. My husband supports me. My friends online and at work give me the determination to keep going.
Better still, knowing that there are people who enjoy my writing is the greatest thing in the world. I may never manage to write the story that was in my head exactly as I imagined it but the comments I’ve gotten on my stories tell me that I’m doing well enough.
Goals to meet inspire me to sit my butt down and apply my fingers to the keyboard even when I’m tired, grouchy, lazy or sick. Having a deadline is a huge advantage for me; I work much better when I know that there’s a clock ticking.
Inspiration is everywhere for me. How about you?