First of all, thanks to Sarah for swapping days with me. This past weekend was an interesting one, and not in the proverbial way. My mother and I made our way through the always ongoing construction on I-35, carefully avoiding the wrecked tanker trucks and the inevitable multi-car pileup in the backup from the wreck to Wichita, KS. Now why, you might ask, would we do that. Well, simply put, it was our cousin's 90th birthday and a grander lady doesn't exist -- at least not in my mind. So we spent Saturday and part of Sunday with family, having what can only be called a mini-family reunion.
As is usually the case whenever this side of my family gets together, talk often turns to the various parts of the publishing industry. My great-grandfather ran a newspaper in Colorado. My great-uncle was, at one time, the youngest lin0type operator in Kansas. His brother did a stint as a reporter. One of my cousins is a printer -- rather, he was, but he's been outsourced and now works in another industry since he can't find another printing job. Another cousin is published in academic presses. And then there's me. One pro sale. Several short stories out making the rounds now. A couple of novels on submission at various publishers. And an anxious eye cast at my email account, waiting to hear from someone, anyone and trying to tell myself to forget about my babies until they come home or I get that wonderful message saying they've been bought.
As you can probably guess, some of us started talking about writing: why we do it, what we want from it, etc. And we discovered one thing. We've always written. Not all of us have wanted to be writers, but we've always felt that need to write. Some of us do stream of consciousness writing. Putting pen to page and just letting the words flow. For the most part, these are the ones who are journal-keepers. They have the need to write, but not the motivation or desire to let anyone else see it. Then there are others who want to be writers but are too scared or not confident enough in their own ability to ever let anyone save a few close friends/family members see what they've written. Then there's me -- I used to fall into the last group. But what makes me different from some of the others in my family isn't that I'm stubborn. If you look stubborn up in the dictionary, you'll see that side of my family pictured. No, what makes me different is that I finally gave in and let someone outside of the family see what I'd written and she took me under her wing -- Sarah, quit squirming. She -- along with Kate, Dave and a couple of others -- have given me the courage to believe in myself, something I appreciate more than they can ever know.
Okay, back to the weekend. We started talking about what inspires us to write. What is inspiration vs. motivation in writing? That's something I really hadn't thought too much about. So, being me, I spent much of the six hour drive home doing just that. And had inspiration hit me smack in the face as a result. Fortunately, I wasn't driving at the time or things could have gotten messy.
For those of you not familiar with I-35 in Oklahoma, there's a stretch of road south of Oklahoma City that is still more ranch and farm land than city or town. You can go for miles seeing only outbuildings and cattle and horses. Trees -- some birch, oak, elm, and pine -- dot the fields and line the sides of the road. And that is where inspiration hit.
Mile after mile of bare trees and lush evergreens showed some of the oddest damage. Upper limbs were broken and scatted around on the ground. Some hung from threads higher up. Others had fallen with such force that they were impaled in the ground. But unlike damage from tornadoes or high wind, these limbs looked as if they'd simply snapped and fallen straight down. Almost as if someone or something had stepped on them, realizing after causing the initial damage that something sharp was sticking them and moving away before demolishing the rest of the tree. I wish it hadn't been raining so I could have gotten a photo.
Intellectually, I know the damage is from the snow and ice the area has had this winter. But my writer's imagination began running wild. What could have caused the damage? Was it an alien machine, ala War of the Worlds, moving through the unpopulated areas, setting up bases in preparation to attack? Perhaps it was the Trickster from Native American legend, playing his mind games with me. Maybe giants actually roam the land through there and that's why more people haven't developed the area.
Well, you see how it went. From those few minutes looking at the scenery around me, I have the start of a new story. I'm not sure yet how it will finally manifest itself, but it's there. So where do you find inspiration? What's the strangest thing that's inspired you? What's the difference between inspiration and motivation in writing?