If you write, what is it that gives you ideas?
The first question most poets and writers have been asked is: “Where do you get your ideas?”
When I’m asked this, I usually answer by saying either, “ideas are everywhere,” or “I don’t know.”
Neither answer are very helpful, are they? It is a question that novice writers ponder. Even experienced writers sometimes wonder where others find their inspiration. When I listen to powerful writers read their work, the same questions scratch at my brain: “Where did that come from? How did you ever think that up?”
Consider a few possibilities.
Writers often find inspiration while walking. Several of my own poems have grown from my morning walks around Ontario.
Walking also was a favorite pastime of writers, such as: Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and, of course, Henry David Thoreau and William Wordsworth.
Authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates and Will Self have praised the benefits of long distance walking. The exercise not only provides ideas, but also has a calming effect while at the same time stimulating the brain – both conducive to good writing. Studies have shown that walking boosts creative inspiration by as much as 60 percent.
The prolific poet Mary Oliver says, “Think for yourself. Trust your own intuition. Another’s mind isn’t walking your journey; you are.”
True, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to understand what journeys have inspired other writers? What sparks their mysterious ordering of words that are able to stir and inspire us? Each person is a storehouse of feelings, memories and ideas. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to peer into those storehouses?
Realizing this fact, I propose to interview perhaps 10 to 20 poetry and prose artists in the Inland area and combine their insights into a book, one that includes the input of several Inlandia/PoetrIE writers along with my own.
Contributors would discuss some of the things that have triggered their own creativity, perhaps offer a couple of examples from pieces they’ve written and maybe suggest prompts for other people who aspire to write.
As an example, think of Dru Sefton’s piece published on Current.org on May 30 concerning the book edited by poet Robbi Nester: “The Liberal Media Made Me Do It: Poetic Responses to NPR & PBS Stories.” It features the work of 56 poets reacting to segments and programs aired by public stations.
What a great and unexpected source of inspiration!
Elizabeth Kostova, author of novels “The Swan Thieves” and “The Historian,” finds inspiration from William Carlos Williams’ admonition, “No ideas but in things.” She writes a delightful essay on the subject in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and the object she chooses to write about is a set of metal measuring spoons she remembers from her mother’s kitchen. Consider the possibilities in “First Objects.”
Kostova says, “For writing it seems important to me that the objects we grow up with help form our sense of the world.”
Her essay provided me with a possible prompt: Think of a few early objects you remember that were your gateways to life and learning. Write about one of them, recalling the many vivid images it stirs up in you. Allow your mind to follow the flights of fancy it takes you on.
What is it that inspires you? Since the question has been discussed by authors through the ages, one aspect that intrigues me in this project is how contributors will add to the conversation.
When I suggested the topic of inspiration to fellow Inlandia poet David Stone, he had some questions of his own: “Will the writers you interview affirm ideas from the past? Will they find major or fine points of contention/difference with earlier writers? Will they bring in ideas from unexpected fields of study?”
Here is a conversation that has the potential to enrich all of our writing lives.
Based on the number of writing books and “how to” books both online and in bookstores, I believe there would be a considerable market for such a book. What do you think? Would you like to participate?
Would you like to join our conversation? Leave a comment here on the Inlandia Literary Journeys blog.