How Do I Get Inspiration?

June 12, 2008
By Becky Orwin, Chesterfield, ZZ

Well, this is my first attempt at piece of writing that isn’t fiction, and, to be honest, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I feel a bit like a sixty year old granny that accidentally wandered into a scene from Gangs of New York; that is, completely out of my depth. But then, as far as writing fiction goes, I’m not really sure what I’m doing there either. But I got ‘inspired’ by all the stories I read, so I thought something along the lines of ‘sod it’ and wrote my own.
I think you need inspiration to do anything creative really, whether it’s to write a story, paint a picture or choreograph a four hour long contemporary dance piece. I mean, you can do it without inspiration, but it’ll probably be a disaster; think Jo Brand at the ice skating Olympics – lots of falling on your a**, loud swearing and (generally accidental) comedy.
My inspiration for articles like this was books like The World According to Clarkson and The Book of General Ignorance, and certain newspaper columnists.
I just wanted to be given a license to waffle. To just write down exactly what I think about subjects that don’t really matter, and hopefully give people a good laugh out of it. I mean, I spent a good ten minutes figuring out that Jo Brand gag, and I still think I could do better.
The bugger of the situation is, whenever I get inspiration, because it’s a fairly rare phenomenon, I have to write it down ASAP. Then, once I’ve written it down, I just think ‘Oh, it won’t hurt to write the first couple of lines, just whilst I’m still thinking about it.’ And it’s generally a downward spiral from there until I’ve written half the bloody book in one sitting.
The really unfortunate bit is, I got the inspiration for this at about eleven o’clock at night (on Friday, the twenty first of March, in case anyone cares), and now, it is no longer Friday, it is no longer the twenty first of March, but it is the same sitting. And I’ve already written a piece on Jeremy Clarkson. So, my clock reads 00:59, I haven’t taken my contact lenses out yet, I haven’t had a shower, I haven’t slept in eighteen hours and I haven’t got changed. And that has its effects. Namely that I have nice purple bags under itchy eyes, my hair is greasy, I think I smell, my head feels like a bowling ball and even if I quit right now, it’ll take me another fifteen minutes to get ready for bed, by which point I may have simply dropped dead of exhaustion. On top of that, I just keep thinking ‘one more line…just one more line….I’ll just finish this paragraph…’
And now the clock downstairs (which is slow, but nevertheless) is donging one o’clock and I’ll probably be woken up in the morning by a noisy, rude, inconsiderate monster more commonly known as a brother.
Anyway, I’m already going to be knackered, so I might as well just finish this article and be more knackered, but satisfied. There was actually another point that I was going to talk about, but I’ve completely forgotten it…
There’s something symbolic in that – in a toss-up between sleep and satisfaction, God would obviously prefer you to have sleep. Which I’ll remember next time my mother and me have a conversation about why I am dragged, kicking and screaming, from my warm, comfortable bed at the crack of dawn to go to school. Anyway, that’s a topic for later on, one which I can assure you I will really let rip on.
Hey! That was it! Choosing a topic.
You would think, wouldn’t you, that given all of the subjects in life, picking a few to waffle about in a spur-of-the-moment article would be easy. But oh, no.
It’s like that awkward pause when you’ve met someone new and can’t think of anything to say. You’re sitting there, having discussed the weather until your face turns blue, twiddling your thumbs and looking in any direction that isn’t the other person, and you’re at a loss for what to say.
I mean, you could say anything in the world! These days, the most random thought that pops into your head can spark a ripple of laughter at least. You may even spur a playful mockery, or, the best case scenario, an actual conversation.
For example, I, in the past, have been known to spout the first random thought that comes into my head, however bizarre it may be. Comments such as (and I swear this is true) “Is Mother Theresa still alive?”, “Where do the bubbles at the bottom of the lemonade glass come from?” and “I think I’d make a good God.”
With people you’re comfortable around, such as best friends and close family, you never run out of subjects! My mum and I manage to find time for discussions about once a week, and neither of us ever runs out of things to say. And in my circle of friends, despite the fact we’ve all known each other for years, it’s hard to get a word in edgeways!
But despite all of this, when you are desperate for some sort of conversation starter, your head goes completely blank. One friend of mine has come up with a funny, if slightly unorthodox, way of dealing with those situations. He raises his hands above his head, clenches his fists and swings them down again, very quickly, shouting “SMASH!”
Then, when the rest of the room looks at you with open mouths and eyes the size of Piers Morgan’s ego, just say “I was breaking the ice.”
Trust me, it’s a winner.
Another friend simply looks around at the person you’re being awkward around and says “So…life, eh?”
Choosing subjects for an article like this is a bit like that, the choice is just too big. Where on earth do you begin?
Another way of looking at it is this; imagine seeing a slab of the most beautiful, delicious-looking cake in the whole world, be it cheesecake, carrot, fruit, banana or whatever tickles your fancy. For me, it’s hot chocolate fudge. You look at it, and you desperately want a piece, but when someone gives you the whole thing, you don’t know where to begin.
But the weirdest things can give you inspiration. When I decided to write this, I sat down with a pen and a pad and stared blankly into space for about fifteen minutes. I probably would have stayed that way for much longer, but at that moment my brother came in and walloped me over the head with The World According to Clarkson. You may see this as a bad thing, and I did too, at first. I yanked the book off him and shouted and screamed until he ran away, giggling madly. But then I looked down, and I saw the book. I decided to write a chapter on Jeremy Clarkson.
And then I realised about how weird inspiration is. It’s not something you can find, it’s something that just reaches out and whacks you over the head (literally, in my case). I just sat down and glanced around my bedroom, and within thirty seconds, I had about eight article ideas.
For example, I saw a pile of freshly washed clothing and decided to write an article on mothers.
I saw how slowly my computer was loading and decided to write an article on modern technology, and how much it hates me.
I saw a few scattered schoolbooks and decided to write an article on school.
And then the ideas you got from looking can sprout more ideas themselves.
For example, I saw my book shelf and decided to write an article on writing, which led me on to how people think that reading/writing is nerdy, this, in turn, got me on to stereotypes.
And if all of that isn’t enough, whilst you’re actually doing the writing itself, very often your ideas change with the way the words flow onto the page and how you progress with the writing.
For example, this article was originally called ‘How do you write?’ But it went through several changes that went something like this – ‘How do you write non-fiction?’ – ‘What is inspiration?’ – ‘Why does inspiration come at stupid times?’ – ‘Where does inspiration come from?’ – ‘How do I get inspiration?’
All of that just from how things came out on the page. I also, several times, had to stop myself going off on a tangent and emitting some rubbish about a completely random topic that may have a small link to the original idea. So, to me, inspiration came in the form of an annoying little brother with vengeful thoughts and a slightly pathetic excuse for a weapon. Granted, that is certainly not how I would have chosen it to appear, but that’s how it came and, at the end of the day, I’m grateful.
Which means the answer to the question is inspiration can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime and generally in a truly bizarre (and in my case, slightly painful) fashion.
So now I’m sitting at my computer, its 01:53 in the morning, I’m absolutely knackered, but very satisfied and feeling rather pleased with myself, because I think I’ve figured out inspiration. And have I? Well, that itself could be turned into an article.

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