Blog posts with the tag: "inspiration"

 

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Every since I was young I’ve been fascinated by the thought of time travel. Not travelling to the future, however, but to the past. I always wanted to solve certain mysteries, like how the pyramids were built, or who Jack the Ripper was. I also wanted to see people from history that I admired, and see what they were really like.

 

There are some eras which, in particular, interest me. The ancient civilisations always engross me, as well as the Tudor and the Stuarts. I love the dark Gothic of Victorian London, as well as Belle Epoque Paris, the 50s, 60s, 80s and 90s. It doesn’t matter that I grew up in the 80s and the 90s, I’d like to explore them as an adult, there is something so attractive about the music, film and cultures of those decades.

 

With the excellent television adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, 11.22.63 currently airing on the Fox channel here in the UK, and the much-anticipated second season of Outlander on Amazon Prime, it got me thinking about how time travel is an excellent writing prompt.

 

 

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Where would your character travel to? Why? How? Would they travel back in a machine? Through a wardrobe? With a car? What would happen to them in this ‘new’ old place? Would they fit in? Would they be in danger? Would they be rich or poor? Invisible even?

 

And even if you’re not interested in writing a time travelling adventure, just imagining what it would be like to live in a different time can help with historic novels, or even just researching the background of a character or a flashback.

 

Where would you travel back (or forwards) to?

 

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I’ve just got back from a relaxing break in Cyprus, and although I can hold my hand up and say that I spent some afternoons by the pool trying to tan my pasty body, even then I had ideas swimming around in my head.

 

I think finding myself in a completely new place switches this up a gear, although I find myself doing the same thing when I’m sitting in the park or reading or even when I’m supposed to be getting though the supermarket as quickly as I can. This continuous stream of ideas, from fully-realised story ideas to just a word or a memory constantly has me reaching for my phone and recording everything. If my phone isn’t at hand because the battery has died then there better be a physical notebook in my bag and a working biro because there is nothing more annoying than an idea slipping through the net within minutes of thinking it. This is part of the reason I immediately make notes about vivid dreams because once we emerge from the fog of sleep and are distracted by that marvellous smell of coffee or the latest gossip on social networks, the finer points of said dream will have dissipated.

 

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Going on holiday is also of course a wonderful way to feel like a writer again, if like me, you’ve been doing less writing and more of the technical/self-publishing stuff. While I’m certainly no polyglot, I love languages and culture and always buy a trusty Dorling Kindersley Top 10 guide and Lonely Planet phrasebook. Hearing new words and accents reawakens my love for language, while on the cultural side, the history and customs of a country often sparks new ideas. Although a lot of the people in Cyprus speak English, I like to feel a little out of my comfort zone and trying to get by in the local lingo.

 

In Cyprus I found myself once again interested in Greek mythology, something that I was very into in my teens, along with anything to do with Ancient Egypt or the Titanic.

 

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One night I was unable to sleep and got up to get myself a glass of water. The holiday villa overlooked the sea, and for an hour, I stood mesmerised watching the horizon as it exploded with flashes of lightning and foundation rumbling thunder.

 

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If you can’t get away then perhaps try a little trick I used to do as a child. I used to arm myself with holiday brochures and cut out the pictures of places I wanted to go, then I wrote fragments of stories, imagining myself in these far-flung places.

 

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Do other writers find it hard to switch off from this observational trait? And would they want to? Personally, I like always finding inspiration. I think I’d be weirded out if it stopped.

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Long gone are the days when writers were supposed to find inspiration in the bottom of a bottle of booze. If you have ever read some of the daily rituals of famous writers, you might be put off. I for one, like to read how people I admire have accomplished their goals but of course what works for one person might not work for another.
As I have said before, you often need to try different routines or rituals and see what works for you.

 

Here are a few tips on how to have a more productive writing day (without alcohol):

 

Stay hydrated: As much as I like to drink lattes and tea to keep me warm and alert, nothing quite refreshes like a cold glass of water, especially during the afternoon slump. Green tea is also a healthier option than the traditional caffeine hits.

 

Get enough sleep: Try and get plenty of sleep the night before so that your brain is in proper working order. If I have a restless night then I find that I have serious mind fog the next day. If you are seriously tired and its affecting your work, then experts say that downing an espresso and then napping for 20 minutes will help you wake up properly and be able to carry on effectively. Make sure you set an alarm though!

 

Eat healthy: You will have been living in a cave if you have not heard all of the media coverage on how bad junk food and sugar is for you. I certainly have trigger foods, such as bread, that make me feel sluggish after I’ve devoured it. Then there are the times when you are writing away so intently that you forget to eat. I try and have 3 healthy meals a day, that are fairly light – in others words won’t make me want to lie down and sleep, but that are sufficiently filling.

 

Get out: If you are tired or suffering from zombie brain then get out and get some fresh air, exercise and vitamin D. Plus, as a bonus, going for a walk isn’t technically time off from writing as you can think through plot ideas and character conflicts as you walk, and you might find inspiration along the way.

 

Look for ideas: Some people claim that they can’t write until an idea comes to them. If this were true of all writers, then I think a lot fewer would ever get anything done. Imagine ideas as clues on a treasure map that you must work to find. There are many different ways of coming up with ideas if you are stuck. Here are a few:

 

Visit a gallery or museum – does a painting or historical piece inspire you?
Read a newspaper, magazine or online articles. One little story or oddity could prompt an entire project
Write down any bizarre dreams you have
Do some free writing. Set a timer for ten minutes and write about the first thing that pops into your head
Go to a flea market or even just look around your home; are there any interesting objects or trinkets that could be integral to a story?
Take some books and open up a page randomly and pick a sentence. Could you write a short story with that sentence as a starting off point?
Write a list of things or places that are of interest to you
Go to a cafe and people watch. Be discreet and eavesdrop.
Go to your local library or bookshop. Are there any interesting nuggets of local history you could use?
Could you rewrite a story from the perspective of a different character?
Do you have any interesting information from your family history that you could use?
Look back over any notebooks you have kept and see if there is anything of interest there

 

The most important thing is not to give up. Try a writing exercise or just put a timer on and force yourself – it will come to you eventually.

 

x

Hello!
Heather Blanchard

Welcome. Are you a writer, a bookworm, a daydreamer? Are you still clinging on to that magic that pervaded childhood? Pull up an armchair and get cosy. This blog is my dreamscape through an enchanted forest to a world of stories and the little things that make me happy; a chance to add a dash of sparkle to the daily grind. Here you will find the whimsical, the coveted, the Gothic and the romantic. Happy exploring!

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