My experience has been that the more I write, the more easily ideas come to me. It is when I've been busy with other things, when my mind has been otherwise occupied, that I have to wrack my brain to come up with a story idea.
It's as if I've primed the pump allowing ideas to flow readily.
Where do the ideas come from?
One of the first short stories I ever wrote was inspired by watching the movie Rear Window.
I was taking a writing class at the time and was looking for an idea. Otherwise, I may never have paid the kind of close attention to the movie that led to my idea. As I watched the James Stewart character, I was intrigued by two questions:
- Why is he so indifferent to Grace Kelly's character, a woman who is breathtakingly beautiful, smart, classy and undeniably in love with him?
- Why is he so intrigued with watching his neighbors through binoculars that he refuses to leave the window even go to bed at night?
The murder, of course, is interesting. Stewart's efforts to unmask Raymond's Burr's character as the murderer are riveting.
Even so, what I walked away from the movie with was a fascination with someone whose life is so out of balance that he prefers to live through the lives of others rather than to fully engage in his own life.
It inspired a story about a woman who believes she sees something take place as she's sitting on a park bench. Outraged by what she believes she has seen, she acts on her suspicions. She is wrong, of course, and brings about devastation in the lives of three innocent people. I read the story to my writing class. Then I entered it into a national contest where it received Honorable Mention.
I mention this because I always find the work of other artists inspiring. So much so that their "take" on an element of the human comedy often elicits a response in me to deliver my own "take" on a similar situation. Often my angle of vision is quite different from theirs.
So it's not just life that can inspire us. We can be inspired by art as well, and this includes the visual and performing arts.
I know a talented painter whose paintings are inspired by novels she has read and loved. I know musicians whose music grows out of an appreciation of a special poem. Choreographers tell stories all the time, some of them based on famous novels.
For me, it is often movies that set my creative juices flowing, but I also use music to set and establish the right mood as I write, and sometimes I look at a painting that conveys an emotion I am trying to capture.
What about you? Do other forms of art inform your work or inspire it? Where do you get your story ideas?