This is what every writer, every artist, everyone who create in one form or fashion seeks. To some, inspiration comes easily. They find it in the sights and sounds surrounding them. Random snippets of conversation, the smell of freshly baking bread, a memory brings the muse singing to them. To others -- and all too often of late this has been me -- it is a fleeting thing, something that teases us but never quite delivers.
I was talking to Sarah about this the other evening. Actually, I was whining about it because my tinfoil hat seems to be preventing the ideas from coming where hers actually seems to incubate them. She listened for a few minutes and then verbally slapped me -- as she should have -- and told me to go to the dictionary, pick out four words, throw one out and then write a story using those three words. Oh yeah, the words had to be picked at random. So I couldn't get away with using "a", "and" and "the". Have I told you she was evil?
The other thing she told me to try was to go to a collection of Kipling, or any other poet, and scan the titles. Choose one and then adapt it to my own words and go from there. Well, let's just say my heels dug in at that. Before she could come up with any other helpful suggestions, I took refuge in the fact I had to get ready for the house to be invaded by a bunch of college kids in town for the football game. Whew.
Or so I thought until dinner last night. Mom, my son, one of his buddies from college and I were sitting around the table talking when Mom brought up the fact she wanted to go to the Dallas Holocaust Museum. There'd been a wonderful story about it in the Dallas Morning News that morning. The odd thing about it was the fact that my son and I had been talking about visiting the museum when he's home for winter break. Of course, when you start talking about World War II with my mom who lived through it, my son and his buddy who have already signed their commitments to the military (or, in the buddy's case, is about to) and me, well, it becomes a long conversation that branches off into military history, etc.
Any way, as we talked, a niggling of an idea, not quite inspiration hit. It germinated all night and then sent me looking at images this morning. And that's when it struck me, and when it reminded me of Chris' post a week ago. I'm visual and there are certain sights that to send my imagination not just traipsing comfortably down the path of inspiration, but running wild.
Who can fail to be moved by the sight of a pile of shoes as high, or higher, than they are tall? Who did the shoes belong to? What's the story of the little girl who once wore the Mary Janes, or the boy who wore the scuffed and scored brown leather shoes. Did they survive the camps and did their families? We've all heard of, if not read, Anne Frank's Diary. But what about all the men and women, boys and girls, represented by these shoes? More importantly, if I were to write a story using this sort of image as inspiration, could I do justice to the memory of all those represented here, even if I might be writing a romance or a sf/f piece?
This is an image that has haunted me from the day I first saw it. I had the pleasure of being in Washington D.C. not long after the Korean War Memorial was opened. The sight of these life sized statues trudging through the rice paddy in the day was haunting. At night, well, it's something I'll never forget. The artists involved in making the statues managed to capture not only the pride and determination of these men, young and not so young, but also the exhaustion, the pain and the despair a soldier feels after being in the field for so long. This one statue in particular remained with me, simply because of the expression on his face. I can read so much there and, yes, it will be incorporated into the story I'm now being battered about the head and shoulders with.
But it's not only the tragic or the battle-weary that inspires me. It's also the majestic and whimsical. The Summer Palace outside of St. Petersburg, Russia is one such place. It represents not only some of the most beautiful architecture I've ever seen, both inside and out, but also a sense of whimsy. If you walk the grounds, there are areas where you have to watch your step because if you happen to step on the wrong colored rock, you'll get soaked by hidden fountains. Just imagine the courtesans with their fancy clothes and attitudes walking oh so properly only to have the tsar's sense of humor douse them -- especially since their companions who weren't soaked would be having the laugh of their lives. The palace and its grounds also have a rich history from WWII, but that's for another day.
So, how about you? Where do you draw inspiration from when you find yourself reaching for an idea and it just isn't there? Or what about these photos? Do you get anything from them or from their stories?