Finding Inspiration

I’ve got a deadline. And I’ve been staring on and off at a blank Word document. Sadly, the topic doesn’t appear magically. Whenever I don’t really know yet what to write about, I tend to do all kinds of things to keep myself busy – anything to stall for extra time.

I log on the Internet and begin to search for inspiration. There’s an awful lot of information out there, which is fascinating – but without knowing what to look for, it’s not very helpful. So after an hour or so I play a simple game. And that takes the rest of my afternoon. I suppose the Internet is not the place for me to spend time looking for inspiration.

Second attempt

I reopen Word. The page is still awfully white. I don’t really feel like sitting behind my computer anymore. I leave my laptop open and the document on the taskbar – readily available for the moment an idea strikes.

Instead, I turn my attention to my bookcases for inspiration. I once had the intention to keep them organized and to have only books on them, but I can’t say I managed either. Working my way through the shelves, I painfully have to conclude that I really have been slacking on my Irish. There are at least two Irish novels I know are worth reading, but they need to be translated first. The second thing I’ve discovered is that I own two copies of the same book in two different editions.

Unfortunately, I’m still not inspired.

Living death

I take out Crystal’s The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language and leafing through it. I had to buy this book for my first year at university – I can’t even remember for what course – but I never actually opened it during my five years there. It’s one of those books that look very impressive sitting on the shelf, just like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (this one I did read.)

A picture of the Mona Lisa makes me stop leafing through. In the text next to it I catch the words lexical zombies and I’m intrigued, so I read the sentences to understand what zombies have to do with language:

“[Clichés] have become trite, hackneyed expressions. And yet they survive, in a kind of living death, because people continue to use them, despite complaints and criticisms. They are, in effect, lexical zombies.” [Crystal, p.186]

The words ‘lexical’ and ‘zombies’ trigger several things. Firstly, I find the topic I want to write about for my blog. And secondly, the entry triggers the idea to use clichés in a new way, but I’ll leave that for another blog. And finally, it made me curious how other people find their inspiration.

So how and where do you find your inspiration? Or if you like, what has been the strangest way in which you found inspiration?

Cecile

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14 Comments to “Finding Inspiration”

  1. Inspiration strikes me anytime, anywhere. I jot down blog ideas on any piece of paper that is handy before I forget them. Other times, I’m inspired by something someone said and I think, “Hmmm, that would make a great blog post.”

    • Yes, inspiration never comes on set times, that’s why I have a notebook with me at all times – just in case. ( I do have to remember to bring something to write with too.) I guess finding inspiration is only part of the problem. The other part is that once I don’t feel like writing none of the ideas I’ve written down seem like potential writing material. And this complicates the situation even further.

  2. I find it best to just sit and write about someone doing something. Perhaps a man on a bus, or a woman walking down the street. I find this gets the mind in gear.

    • I really admire people who can do that. Perhaps I would get my mind in the right gear when I actually do it too. The problem is getting myself to do it. But next time I face the problem I’ll give it a try and see where it will lead me.

      Cheers, Cecile

  3. Well. I think Inspiration is a word you should never rely on. When I don’t have it, yet have to write, I just start writing. If you don’t know what to write about, then write that down. Write down what you are thinking, what you’ve been doing that day, what you should be writing about, and then you might just slip into the right mode. And for the rest, I can’t do without my fountain pen and notebook. Got to carry them with me everywhere – without it I probably wouldn’t get anything down to paper. But hey, every writer does that, right? Oh yes – and the train is a great place for observing people & overhearing them. Cafes are, too.

    • Hi Janneke,

      Yes, my fountain pen and notebook follow me wherever I go – even to work where once in a while I can’t help writing.This post was the result of writing about what’s it like to seek out inspiration so it certainly works. The problem I usually have when I don’t know what to write about is that I don’t feel like writing at all. It reminds me about doing my maths homework or worse my French. (I still don’t get it that I actually did my French homework I honestly didn’t understand what I was doing.)

      I think it’s time for me to get out more often to observe people. Lately, I’ve only gone out to do the essentials, grocery shopping; get to work; get home again. Time to go to pub again.

      Cheers, Cecile

  4. There’s a dull procrastination in the air presently, I’m suffering badly, the editor of a travel guide I write for sent a late reminder and I was heartened to see about 30 other cities mentioned (he mentioned the cities we write about not our names which was nice), I also read elsewhere there is a new creative junction coming from April 13, something to do wtih the alignment of the planets, that’s good enough for me, I’m hoping it gets the fire burning.
    I do find that meeting a writing friend, having a coffee, chat, sharing the mood definitely inspires, staying in the fug only deepens it. Ok, think I need to go make that coffee on that note and get started on this city guide. Thanks for the chat.

    • Hi Claire,

      Ah, so it’s not just me ;) I agree that having a chat with writing friends helps a lot and I’m interested to see what will happen after the 13th. I do wonder how long the effect of the planets will last because I really don’t have any time at all this weekend to write.
      Did the coffee and the chat help you today with the city guide?

      Cheers, Cecile

      • Yes, it worked for me, I finished it by midday, the added motivation being I could invoice them for it too! Actually it was fun once I got going, it made me want to start planning visits in preparation for next month. Yes, I hope the next positive influence of the planets stays a while too, we need all the external motivation we can get :)

  5. Inspiration is a tricky thing. It tends to hit on the cusp of sleep or any time I’m completely unprepared for it. I have a habit of leaping out of bed and jotting possible blog post topics down or fixes to scenes I’m revising. I’m looking forward to hearing about lexical zombies.

    • I have that whenever I’m in the flow of a story. I turn off my computer (because that’s the wisest thing to do on ordinary week days) when I think I reached a point I can stop writing, but by the time I’m in bed new ideas have popped up. So in order to keep myself from starting up my laptop again I keep a notebook on my bedside table to write down new ideas or, if I really can’t help myself, to continue writing the story.

      I’m working on the lexical zombies, but right now I’ve got so many ideas for blogs and my story I don’t know where to start. And obviously, I’ve got no time to work on any of them, but that’s all part of the game. But I hope to free some time tomorrow evening to get some of them down on paper.

  6. I am extremely good at finding things to do other than write. The only thing that has worked lately is getting out of the house and people watching

    • I know that all too well. Sometimes even doing laundry is more appealing than writing. I love to watch people and I never fail to do so when I’m in the train on my way to visit my parents. Perhaps I should travel a bit more :)

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