I’ve been interested in the mind, learning and creativity for much of my life. I’ve also told and written stories for much of my life.
I thought it would be interesting to find out where people get ideas from, what sparks their creativity and what they do with the ideas generated.
So please leave your comments at the end of this post.
Here’s my take on it.
I cannot remember when I didn’t tell stories to myself and to others. What I do remember is that when I was nine or ten I loved the television programme My Favourite Martian and this started one of my longer lasting interior adventures.
Not content to be a Martian I had to be a denizen of the King of Planets, Jupiter. Not content to be a denizen of Jupiter, I had to be the Emperor. This involved a lot of mental gymnastics, some of which involved how I happened to be living in a Midlands town in England rather than in the Capital City of Jupiter. I soon resolved this by relegating myself to being the Crown Prince who had been sent to Earth by my father (the Emperor) to learn the ways of others.
I was rather surprised and pleased to find out many years later that sending their children to another castle was a usual practice with medieval kings and nobles. It also explained in a neatly satisfactory manner why I was so different in looks and temperament to my older brother. I was of course, different and better.
The theme of unrecognised greatness was, as my wife pointed out the other day, one which has stayed with me all of my life. I will write more of this in a future post.
I cannot recall when I first realised could write creatively. It may have when I swiftly penned a poem about the First World War while watching the Remembrance Day programmes on television. Or it may have been a story set by my great teacher Mr Johnson on the experience of a Guy on Bonfire Night. I was surprised by how good my story was. So was Mr Johnson.
Interestingly the first story I ever sold was about a Guy Fawkes contest and I am planning a novel about the First World War. I’ve learnt that themes stick with me and come back to visit time after time.
Sometimes a chance remark might inspire me, often a book does. I cannot have been the only adolescent to have written a dire echo of the Lord of the Rings. Perhaps it would be called an homage today. Back then it was just rubbish and I knew it.
Where do I get my inspiration now?
Sometimes it’s when I’m talking, especially with my wife. The to and fro of ideas allows them to take wings and gain renewed strength and substance.
Yet there are two more situations where I get my best ideas.
The first is when my feet are dangling. When I am sitting on a wall or a desk with no contact with the ground.
Ideas seem to flow towards me then, this idea and that, like butterflies circling around my head. Often a little voice somewhere to the rear of my head will tell me that this idea is the best and I will pursue this in more detail. I can muse on the ideas, play with them, all the while dangling my legs like a little child upon a swing which is just a little too large.
Perhaps it is the lack of grounding which sparks my creativity here; perhaps it is some long-forgotten link with childhood. I don’t know why but I do know that dangling my feet is a sure-fire way for me to spark ideas.
The second situation is when I go to a café on my own. I first realised this when I worked in a college. I worked with my boss to put on many innovative courses. This involved networking with a host of other agencies in the town, county and nationwide. The success of these courses gave me kudos, the freedom to leave the college and the time to think. It also gave me access to cafés.
I felt a little guilty the first time I visited a café in work hours. However I speedily fotgot this. Fresh ideas would bombard me almost faster than I could write them. I came up with countless ideas for new courses, new ways of teaching and new ways of working with students over a leisurely cup of tea.
It is the same now.
If I go to a café on my own I make doubly sure that I have a notebook and pencil with me. Sure enough, the ideas soon come flooding in. Some are new ideas for novels or stories. Some are thoughts on my current novel, ideas for new character, plot twists, new themes and sometimes whole scenes.
I see people doing things I would not notice if wasn’t sitting there with noteook in hand and wonder what makes them act this way. I notice people in more detail, the way they walk and talk and dress. I see ways in which I could use these observations in my books.
I suddenly realise links I had not noticed between different characters and different scenes, I have insights into motivation and come up with new conversations and fresh challenges for my characters. Half an hour in a café gives me enough material for weeks of writing.
I sometimes let my drink get cold.
So that’s some of the ways in which I get inspired.
Please let me know how you get your ideas by leaving a comment.