Call it laziness or procrastination or recovering from illness, I haven’t been writing a lot (read: hardly anything) in the past month or so. I wish I could say I’ve been practicing to be the next Escoffier or Julia Child, training to run a marathon, or diving into a study of Arabic instead (all of which, to varying degrees, I’d like to do,) but mostly it’s amounted to a lot of twiddling my thumbs (read: watching Murder, She Wrote, the recent discovery of which has not deterred me from now being in the fourth season, still going strong.)
Then again, I did unofficially tell myself in the murky realm between the subconscious and the conscious that I would take May off and not really make any plans or do much of anything. But it’s June 5th, I’m on the tail end of recovering from a minor surgery and its ensuing complications, and I’m ready for some action.
…Even if I’m not ready, I need some action, and some inspiration.
One place I find inspiration is the work of the greats. If you want to write well, read well. I’ve never really been on board with Faulkner’s advice to “read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.” “Trash” may be good for showing you what not to do, academically speaking, but I think our reading diets should be at least 1% ratio of trash to 99% of at least decent.
Full Disclosure: Several years ago I used to read sappy Christian romance novels here and there in order to laugh at their unintentionally laughable tripe, but I gave it up, in part because I became too nauseated, and in part because I felt that in some sense I was being sucked into the tropes! The last thing you want to do is unconsciously pick up conventions that don’t belong anywhere near good writing.
It’s a pretty safe generalization to say that most things we put into our brains stick. And if we don’t categorize them appropriately (e.g., invoking the name of the Lord occasionally does not a serious religious theme make), we may find ourselves committing the same mistakes and then wondering, horrified, “How did THAT get in there?”
Why? I’m not really sure. Perhaps because all narratives, even badly-told ones, are to some degree compelling. And no writer—even the best writer—is immune to making this kind of mistake. Well, you sneer, “I wouldn’t be one of them. I can read anything and not be influenced, in my writing or otherwise.” Let me speak to you frankly. You’re a snob, and you’re also delusional.
I also get inspired (did that digression throw you off enough?) by taking walks when the weather is fine. We have a beautiful park practically on our doorstep. I’m hoping to enjoy it more when I am able to take walks again.
And—oddly enough—research can be inspiring as well. I’d like to do a separate post about research sometime, but for now, all I will say is that it is essential to any book, no matter where or when it is set. The book I’m working on right now takes place in early 1920s England, and while I knew enough to get me started, there were and still are plenty of things I’ve had to learn through buying/borrowing books on everything from World War I to clothing trends and, of course, searching the Internet. Truth be told, the books have been more helpful. They tend to give me additional information I didn’t know I needed. The Internet is more of a one-trick pony in that respect. I realize none of this sounds very inspiring, but I’ve found, in my research, fresh ideas as the book gains more depth through authenticity.
Anyway, enough talking about inspiration. Now it’s time to find some!
What inspires you to write/draw/bake/be creative?