When I began my career as a professional storyteller, twenty-some-odd years ago, I had to first find stories for my repertoire. Most of my stories are old folk tales that I have re-written into words that “fit my own mouth.”
I found myself voraciously devouring stories for hours on end, and not finding a story I liked well enough to tell. Believe me, if a storyteller doesn’t like the story she tells then it’s a sure bet the audience won’t like it either. Some nights I dreamed about a story I had read, and then I knew it “wanted to be told.” Strange, I know. However those stories that I dreamed about before writing were always the ones that the audiences favored. My Muse (or inspiration) came in my dreams.
I cannot force My Muse. She comes to me at a time of Her own choosing. I have never been one of those disciplined writers who can sit at the computer or pick up a pen and write for an hour promptly every day at 6:00 a.m. If words aren’t flowing in five or ten minutes, it’s a good bet that they won’t.
The words flow when they are ready; then they begin to spill out and nothing stops them. I suddenly find myself to be a cross between a Webster’s dictionary and a waterfall. Once, I sat through a big band concert writing a story on napkins, paper towels, and any other scrap of paper I could find. Even though I love swing music, I was oblivious to it. Although the man who would become my Spousal Unit was playing in that band, I had to get the story on paper before it was gone from my head. It wanted to be told.
While I cannot force My Muse, I can entice Her. I can inspire Her to come out to play. Here are a few of the things I do:
1) I have a set of “prompt cards” from a game I had that I use for sparking memories. The prompt might say, “Tell about a neighbor you had as a child.” Sometimes that sends me off an adventure with my past and a story emerges. If anyone expresses an interest in them, I’ll create a page and list them (but I won’t go to that trouble if you aren’t going to use them…so comment if you want them!).
2) Reading will inspire me, too. I have a truckload of books floating around covering every flat surface in my house (and some surfaces that are not flat). Many of the books are simply collections of odd facts. Usually I will run across something that catches my imagination and off I got to Googleville to find out more. Voila! A story appears.
3) I can go out into The Real Word and experience life (which always gives good fodder for stories). I try to make a date with myself periodically, just me and My Muse. Sometimes we do special things like going to a movie or visiting a museum or maybe even go bowling with George (“George” can go with us, because he doesn’t interrupt. He is the orange bowling ball I got at a garage sale years ago. I talk to him just like Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away talked to “Wilson.”) Other times, I take us to our favorite yarn store and poke around among the lovely colors and textures. Those experiences “feed” us and we can come back to the computer refreshed and inspired.
4) Mainly, if the words won’t flow, I simply do anything other than write; preferably I do something mindless. I work at the spinning wheel feeling the soft wool twist beneath my hands and letting the whirr of the wheel hypnotize me. Or, I work in the yard and feel the earth under my fingers and toes. Sometimes all I have to do is start dusting the house, and magically the words begin to flow. An added benefit to this activity is a clean house. The best of all things to do is just take a walk. I get exercise, fresh air, and sometimes I save worms on the road and suddenly think of a story.
The most important thing for me to do when I need inspiration is simply not allow myself to obsess over it. If I worry about it, then no other thoughts can sneak past that worrying. The words are there; and My Muse will come back to me. All I have to do is give Her room to breathe.
[UPDATE: The contest has ended and here are ALL of the entries! If you’d like to see them, visit:
- 5 Sources Of Inspiration in Photography by Brian Auer
Inspired by accomplishments of mankind (skyscrapers, bridges), beauty of nature, other photographers, challenges (photography contests, setting restrictions to get unconventional), children.
- Seeing Life Through The Eyes Of Inspiration by Andrew Rickmann
Inspired by music, art, problem solving and understanding, newness, progression, desire to be able to contribute.
- Sources Of Inspiration For Your Blog by Simonne Matthew
Inspired by internal dialogue (”shift your attention towards your mind”), surmounted challenges, poetry, love, children, interaction.
- Inspiration For Blogging by Ronald Huereca
Inspired and motivated by conversation, by readers who encourage to keep going, “stay opinionated and frank”.
- Webmaster Blog Inspiration by Lee Robertson
Inspiration for blogging is to share ideas, knowledge and “help others with their websites and blogs”.
- Reliable Sources Of Inspiration for Inspiration Bit by Vivien
Relying on Sleeping Kingdom to sort the ideas and create a clear picture, find a perfect solution. Motivated by the child to boost the confidence and get re-charged.
- Inspiration For Design And Advertising by Tara
Get inspired by word association and playing on words, find ideas in images, look “at something in a different way”, using metaphors.
- Finding Inspiration At The Top Of A Ladder by Rory
Allow the mind to “freely to wander”, relax in the bath, until Eureka! hits you, just “don’t forget to take your notebook” everywhere you go.
- Frustration Is A Source of Inspiration by Bes
Frustration results in a lot of thinking, inspiring the thoughts of reason to shape up the blog.
- Graphic Designer’s Snapshots of Inspiration by Lauren Krause
Keep a design scrapbook, discover antique shops, clear your mind with yoga, think outside the box and brainstorm.
- Sources Of Inspiration For A Young Blogger by Shankar Ganesh
Inspired by people and personalities, dreams and quotes.
- Get your creativity back: the old fashion way by Mirko
Clean up your working space, go jogging, go for a drink with your friends, be happy.
- Storyteller’s Muse by Shelly
Don’t force the Muse but entice her by having a set of “prompt cards”, reading, doing something mindless. Make a date with yourself – just You and your Muse.
- What Inspires A Graphic Designer by David Airey
Inspired by the environment (”every visual object can be interpreted into graphic design”), people of the world, the design process from start to finish.
- Defining Inspiration by Jenny MCB
Figure out what you want to do and then do it, be ready to make changes in your life. “Inspiration comes from within”.
- Sources Of Inspiration for Observers by Pearl
Inspired by good music, reading how others achieved access, overcame an obstacle, Rudyard Kipling’s poem “IF”.
- A Tribute To All Mothers by Jacklyn
Inspired, encouraged and motivated by mother’s precious love.
- Teaching, Inspiration, and Rock‘n Roll by Damien Riley
Focus on the things that you “truly enjoy: guitar, art, poetry, reading, songwriting, nature” and bridge your passions with others.
- Sources Of Inspiration From DailyBlogTips – interview with Daniel Scocco
“Keep your radar on through out the day”, carry a notebook everywhere you go, learn how to identify all those sources of inspiration that surround us.
- Inspiration From Your Future Self by Kate Hudson
“I want my future self to look back and smile, knowing it was worth it”. Inspired by exciting lives of older people who traveled the world, toook chances and had fun “along their journey”.
- The Roots Of Inspiration by Isabella Mori
Everything is connected and becomes a source of inspiration. It’s all about “being willing to make connections”. Serendipity is a big part of inspiration.
- Please God, Bless The Mess by Rosemarie
“Writing is my calling”. Sharing with others experiences, losses and successes.
- Inspired To Write by Marcia
Inspiration comes from “internal conversation”. Tune into that conversation to see if it’s inspiring “enough to bring that conversation out”.
- Inspired By One Minute Miracle by Lewis Bass
Inspired by quick thoughts or quotes, great outdoors, helping other, by feeling the presence of the Creator.
- Motivation And Inspiration for A Hobbyist by Joey
Inspired by interaction with readers, desire to be helpful and informative, “desire to help perpetuate baseball card collecting”.
- Postcards Of Inspiration by Paulie
Digital photography as a hobby, walking, hiking and writing about the personal experience.
- The Little Successes Along The Way by Carolyn Manning
Inspiration comes from “the incomparable satisfaction waiting at the end of each small task”.
- The Really Simple Domino Effect by Hamelife
Inspired by Other People’s Blogs. “Something you read can flick the switch in your mind – one thought can lead to another – and a new article is born. Clickety, clickety, clickety…”
- Questioning Inspiration by Nanny Molly
Have a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” attitude in life, deny the existence of stress and passionless mood.
- Inspiration or Despair That is the Question by Joey
Find inspiration from others, from their encouragement and faith in you, from their support.
- Sources Of Inspiration For Writing by Yvonne Russell
Inspired by people, by quiet achievers, by family, by the learning, “by the wonder of the interactive blogosphere”.
- Life on Hysteria Lane by The Rock Chick
Inspiration that derives “from listening to and observing other people”. Get a cure for your creative block by spending “five minutes max in any public place”.
- Inspired By People by Jacob Share
Inspired by five influential bloggers who have insight, attitude, motivational skills, expertise and dedication.
- They Showed Me How To Find Releaseby Carolyn
Inspired by the person “who succumbed to an addiction, found release, and works through varying degrees of daily struggle toward another victory”.
- Crazy Wisdom Inspiration by Pamm
Inspired by Death. “Because Death gently and lovingly reminds me of Life. Life Right Now.”
- Sources Of Inspiration For Life and Blogging by Dj Flush
Inspired by colors, love, technology, paranormality, life and death.
- What Inspires A Poet by ebele (via email)