Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Primer on Inspiration From a Few Masters

By Leigh Stevenson

It’s always been of interest to me what motivates writers. Where do they get their inspiration? Newspaper articles? Childhood memories? Music? Art? Other writers? From your own personal Job Bank, as Sarah put forth in her humorous April 7th blog? Is it a conscious creative exercise or do ideas spring fully formed? Do you say, “I think I’ll write about golf,” and then go do it? Do you pay attention to what you feel in any given situation, or are you an observer? Both? Neither? Looking at a few published authors, some literary icons, some not, offers some interesting clues about their process.

Elizabeth Strout, the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for Olive Kitteridge suggests marriage as one rich source of drama for fiction writers. She said, “I hope when I pick up a book to find that part of myself that I never dared say anything about.”

Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, says it’s important to literally “touch the earth,” as in feel the soil, experience nature. She goes on to say that she believes “creativity is an entirely spiritual practice.”  She thinks “you should treat your gift with the highest possible respect” and the Archetype of the suffering artist is outdated. Instead, she suggests you ask yourself, “where have you felt joy in your life?”

Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife, a New York Times Bestseller and finalist for the national Book Award, calls herself a National Geographic nerd. She merges a unique blend of mythic folklore, story and memory in her work. She says it is surprising how one’s work takes on a life of its own and describes one experience of only fully realizing a character after meeting the “real-life” version in a Moscow flea market.
It is said that Emily Dickinson was inspired by the mysticism of William Blake, the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe and even the Bible.

In a recent interview, Josephine Humphries said she is stimulated by her hometown of Charleston. She called it a place with a complex, difficult history. She feels lucky to have been born in a city that is rife with contradictions.

What gets your creative juices flowing? I would love to hear your thoughts on your personal artistic process.

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