Often in the morning between projects, I’ll steal away from the office to run along a nearby river. I usually tell my colleagues I have a meeting – and I do. A meeting with my mind. It’s the time and circumstance in which I do my best thinking about writing.
The bigger secret is that I’m listening to musicals when I run. The pairing is unlikely, but I’ve found that show tunes provide two key elements for inspiration: the familiarity of the music allows my brain to relax, and the lyrics can trigger a playfulness in my inner wordplay. Not heady stuff, but it leads to a freedom of thought I find hard to achieve at my computer. And as meetings go, it’s more productive than most.
Writers know the value of inspiration. In a way, inspiration is the almighty component of writing. Add discipline, and you have the formula for accomplishing the most ambitious writing goals. But where do you find inspiration? Can you put your-self in its company?
Several contributors to this issue of The Writer make suggestions about inspiration even if they never use the word – perhaps for good reason, as inspiration often is not a lengthy visitor. Julian Fellowes, the master scribe behind the hit TV series Downton Abbey, adheres to a daily routine to bang out his scripts. He doesn’t refer to it as inspiration, but he clearly knows where he must go to seek out the familiarity and freedom at the heart of good writing.
When his own voice grows quiet or moody, the poet Jaswinder Bolina listens to the hovering voices of distant lives and relatives. Amy Purcell, winner of The Writer’s 2012 Short-Story Contest, found inspiration for Home Repair while eavesdropping on couples fighting in the aisles of a hardware store. “Creativity finds a way,” Marcy Campbell writes in her essay. Distractions from writing – family life, cooking, gardening – provide the platform through which her imagination works mysterious wonders.
Saul Bellow put it another way: “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
Jogging to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Summoning voices from the past. Pulling weeds in the garden. These are the meeting rooms for writers and their words. We wish you inspiration, and we also hope you find it in this issue of The Writer.