Inspiration is a key element in a writer’s toolkit and is just as important as compelling characters, paper and pens and a plot that readers would give their back teeth for. But it can be a fickle friend.
In my experience, inspiration tends to act a little like public transport; it never runs on time. You can be sat in the most beautiful surroundings with no excessive noise around you and inspiration stands you up; you are waiting there with open arms, a blank canvas of paper spread on your lap, pencil poised…and nothing.
I have also noticed that inspiration likes to play tricks on its victims. Usually late at night, when you are tucked up in bed, everything in darkness and then suddenly, inspiration becomes the nagging little voice in the back of your mind that tells you a sudden idea for a story. Naturally, you try and ignore it, to pretend that you’re already sleeping and that you will remember the story in the morning. ‘Of course you won’t,’ inspiration says. The annoying thing is that inspiration is right, which is how you end up with a notepad propped up on your knees in the wee hours of the morning, scribbling furiously about this ground breaking new idea. This is also how you end up with glazed eyes at your desk the following morning, dark circles under your eyes and your boss assuming that you had a heavy night on the town whilst you swallow your fourth cup of coffee.
Whilst inspiration never shows up when it is meant to, it usually is trustworthy, provided of course that you just go with it. I have been known, on more occasions than I would care to admit, to pull over whilst driving and on finding no paper or pen to record my sudden epiphany, I have been forced to use an eye pencil and scribble on the back of a receipt so that the new idea is not forgotten during the remainder of the journey whilst singing badly to the radio.
There are of course exceptions to the rule and there are measures that you can take to ensure that you will meet inspiration, on occasion, at a time and place of your choosing. I tend to find that surrounding yourself by creative like-minded people is a good start, because naturally, conversation with other writers will spark ideas of your own. Writing prompts can also be generated in this way to help inspiration start rolling again later.
If all else fails, then the best thing to do is simply go to your local Starbucks or nearest coffee shop, find a quiet corner and merely observe people. Some of life’s real characters are far too colourful not to have a starring role in your next novel. Though do try and look discreet and above all, don’t stare- it might frighten inspiration away.