Sunday, January 4, 2009


By Leigh Stevenson

People often ask writers where they get their inspiration and why they write. I will try to explain what it is for me.

My mother was a poet and a fiction writer. Among many other things, she taught me to see, really see the world in the shape of trees, the color of light, the beauty of the natural world. My earliest attempts as a writer were in the form of somewhat feeble poetry. I tried to capture all of the turbulent emotions and experiences of growing up and put them on the written page. She encouraged my first attempts but was frank in her assessments. She told me that we often think in trite terms, i.e. clear as a bell, high as a kite, red as a rose. Those expressions are what we hear every day and are what immediately come to mind. The challenge of the writer is to see with fresh eyes and to translate your impressions into fresh terms. This seemed an overwhelming task and I became somewhat discouraged. But I couldn’t stop. A Thesaurus became a good friend.

My father taught me a love of music of all kinds: classical, big band, jazz, contemporary. Sometimes just the sound of wind in the trees or moving through tall grass, the swish of water in a fountain or the beat of the ocean is enough. Sound is important to me as a writer. Sometimes a lack of it.

Inspiration almost always comes to me when I’m still, when I can see the natural world. I don’t think I could write in a windowless room and not see the sky. I have always admired those authors who could sit at a kitchen table with their kids running around them and write a novel. I never could. I was always too engaged with them, too in the moment. I need separate time, space and quiet to create.

I believe a writer must write. He/she has no choice. It’s not enough to see and experience; a writer is compelled to put it on paper. It would almost be painful not to.

What inspires me? Nature. Music. Sound. Great literature. Stimulating conversation. People. Life.

Why do I write? I have to.

No comments: