One of my professors told my class about a visit renowned author Stephen King made to his classroom, in which one of the students asked a question all writers hate: Where do you get your ideas.
Without missing a beat, King replied, “Utica. Next question?”
Inspiration is a funny thing. We think of the “flash of inspiration,” the sudden appearance of the Muse, who places a writer in a trance and brings them into “the zone.” For writers who get into that place, good on ’em. But, for the rest of us, it occurs to me that it’s something a little different.
Speaking from my own experiences, an inspiration is more like a splinter.
An idea or image gets caught in the filter trap of your mind. Something that seems innocuous at first–the light hits a tree branch the right way, or you make a passing joke to someone at a liquor store, or you feel some warmth for the first time after talking to a long-lost friend. Then you go about your business, and the moment passes.
The idea then gets caught in your mind like a splinter. It starts driving you a little mad, as you can’t quite get it out–you know there’s something there, but you’re not quite certain how to use it. It comes and goes, sometimes getting caught on other things as you go about life.
Then, the moment of inspiration hits: you finally manage to work that splinter-shaped idea out of your head, and you find a use for it. It’s freeing, in a way, once it’s on paper.
Inspiration isn’t something that happens, it’s something you have to work on. There really isn’t a flashy, sexy or interesting explanation: ideas just happen.