by Alissa Lukara
When you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to write about in your next novel or memoir, where do you look for inspiration? How do you decide on your book’s subject matter, events or the exact time period?
Be open to clues and hints of inspiration wherever they beckon and tap you on the shoulder. Those bits and piece can serve up a rough framework if you let them.
Here are five ways to fire up your inspiration with the ideas that have enough creative sizzle to carry you through to your book’s completion – including one from filmmaker Woody Allen.
1. Woody Allen’s Inspiration Secret. Take this inspiration from the prolific Woody Allen, whose PBS documentary about his creative process is a gem. Even in the midst of creating whatever his present movie is, he is already seeding the inspiration for his next one. He may not be writing it. But he does keep an “idea drawer” – notes of what tweaks his interest throughout the year. He doesn’t analyze why; he just knows it does.
Woody writes whatever ideas, phrases, images, conversations attract him in the moment down on scraps of paper, on napkins, anything and puts them in his bedside drawer. He forgets about them – until he’s ready to start a new screenplay. Then, he spreads out all those bits of paper on the bed, sifts through them, looks at them, thinks about them and waits for one or more to get him started. He waits for the ones that spark additional ideas.
It is from these seemingly random notes of what he knew drew him that his next screenplay arises. They might lead to a scene or an idea or dialogue between two characters and then another and another and pretty soon, he has another screenplay.
What about you? What hints about your novel or memoir have you noted to spark your creative flame you when you sit down to start your book?
2. A picture or a painting. Maybe you have a picture in your mind that haunts you. Or you see a literal photograph – from your own albums or one you see in a magazine or gallery – or a painting. Hold it in your mind’s eye. Put it up on a wall or keep it by your creative writing desk. Make a screensaver out of it. Write the story it tells you.
3. A conversation. Perhaps you overheard a conversation (carry a notebook and jot it down) that touched your creative self. Or, if you’re writing memoir, you keep remembering certain dramatic or poignant conversations between you and one of the people you might be writing about, or between two members of your family. Write them down – even in note form. Even if you’re not ready to write them, keep the rough notes in a journal or your own version of Woodie’s inspiration drawer, a box, folder or envelope.
4. Dreams. Keep a dream journal by your bed to capture ideas and images that strike you from your dreams. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series arose from a vivid dream of an intense conversation between an average girl and a handsome vampire in a meadow in the woods. She had never written anything but a few chapters of stories before that.
5. Scenes. Maybe a scene pops into your mind of a real or imagined place. If you are writing a novel, what do you imagine happened there?
If you are writing a memoir, perhaps you are clear about one scene that needs to be in it. Jot down notes about it to develop now or later. Keep the notes and scene ideas together in one place and start to build on them. When you’re ready to write, read them over (or pick one at random), drop into the present moment and let yourself sense the energy of which one is most ready to be written. Then, write it. Flush the scene or dialogue out with action and physical and sensory description.
Let your book speak to you through these hints from your creative source that you have recorded, these pieces that beckoned you in the moment and now point the way for you to write your book. If you trust these inspired clues, your book will emerge, moment by moment, word by word.
I love to hear from you. Please post your comments below. Share what inspires you or tips from other writers and artists. And if you like this, please share it on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Want support to begin — and complete — your memoir or novel? Explore your call to write by registering here for the free eCourse, Write Your Book — Transform Lives: 7 Key Stages on the Writer’s Journey. Registering for it automatically subscribes you to Transformational Writers updates and articles with Alissa Lukara. Alissa Lukara, the author of the memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, supports you to start, complete and publish your books through online writing workshops and retreats, writing coaching, editing and speaking.