Tag Archives: drawing inspiration from life

#FlashFictionFriday: Mind Wandering (short essay)

I love this image. I found it at Wikimedia Commons and fell in love with the symmetry and the way the colors complement each other, so opposite and yet so pleasing. It inspires my creativity, pushes away the subconscious boundaries we set for ourselves in our daily lives. It makes me wonder what lies beyond the borders. What mysterious thing could be waiting there for me to discover?

When people first learn I am an author with no day job, the first thing they ask (after what the heck are you thinking) is where I get ideas for my tales.  I usually give them some song-and-dance about adapting modern relationships and values to mythological world situations, and while it’s true, it’s not the whole truth.

The truth is, these things just pop into my head, and I think “Wow – that would be a good story.”  I will be riding in the car listening to music, not thinking about anything in particular, and have a flash of brilliance – What if the dark ages never happened? Or How would Europe look if the Druids had conquered Europe instead of the Romans?

If I am smart, I will write the idea down, because I’m 64 years old and the old harddrive is full—too many cute kitty pictures and Weird Al videos, with no room for anything else.

The flow of random thoughts really is the river of creativity for me. Having the time to just sit and daydream is as rare as the March sun around here, but it does happen, and that is when my ideas come to me.  Letting your mind roam free and allowing the possibilities to enter your stream of consciousness (or not, as they will) is good for you.  Fifteen or twenty minutes a day of simply watching the world go by will rejuvenate you.

Some people will say, “I don’t have time to waste daydreaming,” and that’s all right for them. I personally need to throw open the windows of my mind and let the breezes clear away the musty ideas which get in the way of my creativity. For me, the path to writer’s block is paved with “I don’t have time to relax!”

Don’t get me wrong, I get up at 6:30 am and immediately begin blogging. After noon I read for several hours and then I do revisions or work on my current Work In Progress. I read before I go to sleep.  I do two weekly book review blogs besides this blog and all in all I work 10 to 16 hours a day at this job, but it is interspersed with various household tasks and errands.  I also take the time to let my mind rest, simply watching the town go by from my porch.

Some people call it meditation, and some people call it a waste of time. I call it necessary.  I think of my mind as if it were an ‘idea farm.’ Just as a wise farmer allows his fields to occasionally lie fallow, it’s important to let your mind rest. Letting farmlands lie fallow is one of the best ways of allowing the land to replenish its nutrients, and regain its fertility. Letting your mind roam with no particular direction is essential in lowering your stress levels (!) which immediately improves your health and your thought processes.

So I suppose when I am asked where I get ideas for my tales I should tell them the truth:

I don’t really know!


Credits and Attributes

Bruges, View from Rozenhoedkaai, blue hour. By Arcalino / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Bruegge View from Rozenhoedkaai.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Bruegge_View_from_Rozenhoedkaai.jpg&oldid=198969137 (accessed July 28, 2017). Photo: Arcalino / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

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#amwriting: Drawing on Life Experience

Writers, even dedicated, passionate ones, have lives outside the confines of their craft, and while it frequently derails our ability to write, it is also where we find the realism we need to inject into our work. Life must come before writing because writing doesn’t pay the bills unless you are one of the fortunate few.

I have several family members with serious health issues. Sometimes, I must step away from the keyboard and be the wife, niece, mother, or grandmother they need and you know what? My writing is better for it.

I nursed my mother, with whom I had a complicated relationship, through the last year of her life. She had smoked until the age of 42, and was addicted to perfumes and air-fresheners. She was a self-described clothes-horse who loved expensive cologne and used it liberally.

Even after her death, after they had been laundered and dry cleaned, her clothes still smelled strongly of her brand of Estee Lauder’s cologne.  In her home, she had a Glade plug-in in every outlet, and the spray bottle of Febreze in her hand at all times.

She died of lung cancer.

During her last year, we spent four days a week at the cancer center, and the rest of our time with me caring for my frail mother as if she were my baby. It was difficult mostly because watching someone you love slowly die is the worst. My sanity during that difficult year was made possible because of writing. I wrote 260,000 words during that year, some of it good, some of it off the rails. Much of the experiences of that year are unconsciously referenced in my current writing. It is the part of me that goes into each tale.

It was a devastating year made more difficult by my brother’s mental illness and drug addiction. Yet, that same year was made richer by the strange friendship that developed between me and my mother. All the many things that had stood between us and which had seemed so important were set aside and never addressed. This was because, in the face of her final battle, the hurts of the past just did not seem that important to me. We began to enjoy being in each others’ company, enjoy the quiet of an afternoon, or the bustle of a Starbucks. The ‘F’ word that some of us find so hard to say, forgiveness, became such an easy thing, and when she died, I had lost a friend as well as a mother.

On this blog, I’ve discussed the way epilepsy has affected my two of my adult children, and how our lives are affected by witnessing their struggle. Many hours have been spent writing in hospitals, and this last weekend was no different. I am there when they need me, and when they are ready to stand on their own, I allow them the space they need to do just that.

I have also mentioned how having an eccentric father with battle related PTSD forged my need to escape into books and inspired my writing. Some of us have survived the alcoholic parents who did their best, but dealt with an addiction they denied having. Every writer deals with family issues and experiences, both good and bad, and we are a composite of all of them.

Every time our heart is broken, every time we feel that glorious rush of infatuation, and every time we stick our foot in our mouth or must eat humble pie—these moments should find their way into our work and emerge as characters with real emotions, people who live and breathe and feel real to the reader.

Life in all its glorious beauty and ugliness fuels my writing, and I am not alone. We authors take what we know and reformulate it into something we can live with. In some ways, hope drives my writing. The fact I have hope allows me to write about things that are painful. I find that the fullness of life and the occasional emptiness of despair are easier written about when I set them in an alternate universe, and wrap it in a story that embraces the emotions, even though the story doesn’t parallel my life directly.

I’m like the character in a long, brilliant and sometimes bad, novel. My life is a mix of great joy, romance, helpless sorrow, extreme anger, and faith in the future. I hope your life is balanced as well as mine is, with the good outweighing the bad. This maelstrom of life experience is the well we draw from when we are creating our characters.

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