“People assume that stand up comedians do everything for material,” I read this morning. Well, people make the same assumption about writers. I was a lawyer: “Oh, you must have so many stories to tell about clients!”, I’m now a waitress: “That must be a mine of characters!”, and I suspect that even if I decided to become a hermit or a serial killer, it would prompt comments about discovering new experiences and storylines.
The truth, of course, is that writers and comics are people who live their lives for the same diverse and inexplicable reasons everyone else does. I could never write about any of my clients or customers specifically – I don’t fancy being struck off for breach of confidentiality or sued for libel – and I do these jobs for other reasons, like earning money and keeping self-esteem.
In reality, I don’t know where inspiration comes from. Sometimes it’s a word or phrase – “He doesn’t know” whizzed around my head so insistently on a train journey a few years ago, that during the 20 minute walk from station to house, I created an entire story based on it. Other times, it’s a truism – “Two things can be observed in human behaviour: the tendency towards order and the counterbalancing risk of chaos” is the first line of a short I scribbled out yesterday, and until I was two paragraphs in, I had no idea it would be about unreliable garbage collections. Occasionally, an emotion or a character might pop into my head and need to be exorcised onto the page, but that’s pretty rare. And sometimes, I get my inspiration the way writers’ guides suggest – I go to http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts or http://creativewritingprompts.com/ and see what inspires me, or I pick up a newspaper and try to build a story out of what I find there. Or else I find a contest I want to enter, and work within the rules!
Today, dear followers, I’ve got a new idea. If you comment on this post, whether with a phrase, a character or something else that could constitute an inspiration, I’ll do my best to create around it. There are no rules, the floor is yours.