Where Inspiration Comes From

thought bubble 2Almost three years ago, I had one of those wonderful, fantastical dreams that leaves you breathless.  The type that when you wake up, you try to trick yourself into falling asleep again so you can get back.  Of course, there’s never any going back, is there?

But then I realized that I had my mind.

I remember spending over two hours that day just sitting in my room and creating another world with these characters that I’d dreamed about.  I spent all my spare time that next week keeping up the story in my head, sending my characters on one adventure after another.

Then I started writing it all down.  Soon I opened a word document and started typing, and I turned that dream into a novel called The Sound of Color.  I gave it a plot, more characters, new setting, and a story arc.  I learned that I loved to write.  I got my work critiqued, I re-wrote the first third of the novel, I edited the whole thing over and over, I discovered the online writing community, and I started calling myself a writer.

Which leads to two strange sets of questions:

  1. What if I’d never had that original dream?  Never been inspired to write The Sound of Color?  Would I have started writing anyways?  Would I have still written that story?  Was it God’s plan for me to have that particular dream at that particular time to start me on this journey?
  2. Where does inspiration come from, anyways?

I can’t answer question #1, but I can attempt #2.  I want to share with you different ways I’ve been inspired, and then if you have any cool stories or tips you can leave them in the comments.


Five Things That Inspire Me:

1) Artwork

Soon after I started writing TSOC, I decided to add a picture of my flute to my sketchbook.  I ended up with this:

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Those of you who have beta-read TSOC will know that a magic Flute is central to the plot.  As I put the colors in that picture above, a scene hit me of my characters finding this magic Flute that made all these colors as it was played.  I turned around twice and it was a major story point.

Even as I plan the next novel I’d like to write, I’ve gone back to the drawing board (pun intended), and I’ve loved creating the setting of the Bookstore through drawings in my sketchbook.
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2) Music

You might remember this post from a while ago about music.  But I really want to focus on the one song I mentioned: Arwen’s Vigil by ThePianoGuys.  It was a chilling, enchanting song that I couldn’t help but imagine my two MCs dancing to.  It was a song that brought me back to the heart of their relationship each time I listened to it.  You might even go as far as to say it was the “theme song” for the rough draft of TSOC.

Music has always been central to my writing… it’s a constant source of inspiration, of encouragement.  I even have a writing playlist on Spotify.  (If you wanna listen, here it is, but you need a Spotify account.)

3) Reading.

This should be a no-brainer.  But to prove my point let me say that the novel I’m currently planning (and drawing pictures of) is largely inspired by two fantastic books: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (review here), and The Night Circus (review coming soon).  I like to think of good books as the fuel in the gas tank that lets my writing speed along the highway.  If I go too long without reading, I get stranded on the side of the road.

4) Keeping my eyes and mind open.

You might remember this post that talked about creating characters from real-life people.  Whether it’s an old man across the plane from me, or the sky last night that made me think of my new imaginary bookstore, I find bits of inspiration all around me every day.  A snippet of dialogue.  A picture on pinterest.  A little dreaming and drawing in physics class.  A sunset, a rainy day, a delicious cup of cocoa, a misbehaving horse.  Bits and pieces of new stories surround us every day, and as writers, it’s our job to collect them.

5) Writing.

There have been more times than I can count that I felt like my story was at a roadblock, yet I chose to sit down and write anyways – and in the end, I was hit with a totally new concept, a whole new idea or character or plot point.  (This was basically me throughout the entire month of November for NaNoWriMo.)journal

I’ve heard it said that as writers, we shouldn’t wait for inspiration to strike to start writing.  I agree – often times when I push through the ‘uninspired’ feeling, I find buried treasure underneath.  But one of the most exciting things about being a writer is that “aha!” feeling of inspiration.  The moment when a song, a book, a person, a piece of artwork – or even a dream – latches itself in my mind and turns itself into a part of a novel.  The feeling when I’m laying in bed at night and I have to turn on the light and write down an idea because it’s so breathtaking that I can’t let it go.

That’s genuine inspiration.

That’s what I, as a writer, live for.

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Am I an Anomaly?

I am a teenage writer.  Pretty normal.

With a completed a novel.  A little less normal.

Who has poured time and energy into improving her craft.  Pretty unusual.

Whose writing might be publishable sometime soon.  Anomaly?

I’m just curious – how many other teenager writers out there are serious about writing?  I feel like the answer is not that many.  For example, if I Google “teenager writing tips,” I get a bunch of articles full of stuff I already know.  It feels as if everyone assumes that teenage writer = beginner writer.  Maybe that’s true to some extent, but I don’t feel like a beginner anymore.  Definitely not an expert, but not a beginner.

It seems as though there just aren’t many teens who are committed to writing.

In fact, on Critique Circle, there’s an entire forum committed to “teenage writers.”  But it’s almost never used.  Maybe most teenage writers simply never bother to get outside feedback on their writing.

I feel like I have this conversation every few weeks:

Me: I enjoy writing.

Friend: Oh.  That’s cool.  I’ve written a couple stories, but I’ve never let anyone read them.

Me: Nice!  Ever thought about writing a novel?

Friend: Haha, no.  You?

Me: Oh.  Well… yeah. I wrote a book.

Friend: …

Me: …

Friend: …you wrote

Friend: …you wrote a book?

Me: Yeah.

Friend: What?  That’s… wow.  Can I read it?

They’re always so surprised.  Taken aback, even.  It was a bit frightening at first, but now I’m more used to it.  I have a better idea of what questions they are going to ask, and how to answer them.

But seriously – how many other teenagers have written a novel?  I’ve heard of the few-and-far-between stories, like Christopher Paolini, who wrote Eragon when he was fifteen or something.

But I haven’t really bumped into a lot of other serious teen writers.  Most of my critique exchanges on CC have been with adults.  Most of the writing blogs I follow are by adults.  Most of the followers on my blog are adults.  (Nothing against adults!  I love you all!)

Most of the people that get their books published are adults.

So am I an anomaly?  And if so, am I okay with that?  Am I okay with one day telling my friends that I’ve gotten a book published?

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe you’ve met some teen writers who know what they’re doing and have a semi-coherent plan for getting published.

But honestly, I haven’t.

That’s alright.  I’ll be an adult in a few years anyway.  And until then, I’ll just be what I am: a writer.  If I’m an anomaly at the same time, then so be it.