Where do I get my inspiration? The simple answer is: from everywhere and everything, but that answer is as complex as it is cryptic. Watch a movie, listen to a song, read a book, talk to someone, listen to someone, go someplace beautiful, go someplace desolate, go someplace disgusting, get scared, become ecstatic, do something exciting, or do something boring. In short live, because everything in life, everything you do, everything you see, every experience is something you can put into your stories. But putting all those experiences into your head won’t inspire you to write. It might just do the opposite, it might just cloud your mind with so many conflicting and disparate thoughts that you can’t see how those experiences, actions, and emotions fit into the story.
The Assassin’s Cradle takes place in a complex universe, and is just the first book in a larger story, so I needed to plan. But a plan is not that inspiring. In fact, the vast spaces between bones that form the outline/skeleton can seem intimidating and lifelessly static. Inertia. Not something that is normally considered inspiring, I certainly don’t think it is.
First, the little things. I spent most of my years working for other people as an analyst. In other words, I spent a lot of time looking for problems and ways to solve them. Something very simple in my everyday life reminded me of where I got one of my ideas. I was walking past a supermarket door, and even though I was walking parallel to the doors, they opened. In The Assassin’s Cradle, Idries notes how the building concierge opens the doors as he approaches. Okay, there is nothing special about it, but the idea came from my belief that door sensors should be more intelligent. The sensor should recognize whether you’re approaching or not. Simple, but recognizing a flaw or a mistake in something, whether it’s technology, a conversation, a relationship, a sporting event, a restaurant, or a piece of furniture, anything, can inspire you to write.
Now for the big things. To really get going on a chapter or section of the story, I like to have an internal sense of rhythm or flow, a feeling that I’m in concert with the thoughts, emotions, and actions of the scenes I will be writing. Just like approaching a paper or novel, I start with preparation. Preparation means going through the scenes I plan to write the night before. By getting them into my mind before I go to sleep, I can dream about them. Several questions I had while writing The Assassin’s Cradle were answered when I woke the next morning.
Once you’ve put the scenes and questions into your subconscious, it’s time to take your conscious mind out of the way. I do that through meditation, and I meditate by walking. I am very fortunate to live in a hilly area with houses, parkland, and natural areas. I have so many potential paths and trails that variety is never a problem, sunrise, sunset, shaded, exposed, everything is available. The rhythm of walking and the fact that I don’t need to engage conscious thought allows my subconscious to flourish. I’ll walk for about an hour to an hour and a half. It often takes about a half hour for the thoughts to start flowing, but I’ll run through scenes, conversations, and action sequences while walking. Most recently, I put together significant portions of the outline for The Assassin III while walking.
For me the formula is simple: think about what I want to write the night before, then walk for about an hour the next morning and I’m ready to write.
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