Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bright Idea #62: Feed The Little Gray Cells

By this point in our New Year, I am sure many of you, like me, made resolutions.  I always make a resolution to eat less, exercise more, study the scriptures more, and spend more time with those I love. Those are standard.

But this year I made another one:
In the words of Hercule Poirot – “Feed the little gray cells.”

No matter what type of prose or poetry you write, scribblers that we are must have a constant supply of stimulants for the imagination.  Needless to say, we require a steady stream of information, a reservoir of knowledge, and storehouses of whimsy.  

Perhaps you enjoy a muse that sits on your shoulder and taunts you into getting down your goal of X amount of words per writing session.  If so, you are fortunate.

In his excellent book, On Writing, Stephen King advises: 
"There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know."

Now that’s a muse that works for him, but not for me.  I draw a lot of my inspiration from characters like Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Miss Jane Marple, Nick and Nora Charles, and Sherlock Holmes.  Do you see a pattern here?  I am a sucker for British mysteries, detective stories, and curious escapades.  I will watch or read just about anything that promises a mystery with light comedy with a satisfying resolution. 

Perhaps your inspiration comes from music, poetry, the world of nature, or by certain types of literature. Whatever you choose, the point is to discover what makes your creative juices flow.  Investigate what inspires you.  Then regularly provide nourishment to your brain cells – whether gray or not.  Once you begin this regime you will be astonished at the results.  After a walk or nap, in the shower, or perhaps even at the keyboard, ideas will begin to take root. 

Sometimes the idea will come full blown. Sometimes the idea(s) make take a bit of encouragement even prodding.  A word search may begin a chain reaction resulting in an essay or opinion piece. A newspaper clipping, a scientific discovery, or an anniversary of an historical happening could trigger a column, short story, or become fodder for a book.

Keep a notebook of your ideas and add to them.  When prompted by your writing muse, jot down thoughts, lines of poetry, scraps of fiction or non-fiction.  I promise one day you will find a place where they fit.  Just for fun, create a character and record dialogue for him/her.   Paint a familiar setting without telling where it is.  Then do the same for a setting completely out of your imagination.  Any piece of writing is never wasted.

Take for example this column.  My muse this morning woke me at 7:30 a.m.  While he enjoyed a Milk Bone© and I my coffee, we sat on the couch and watch Poirot on Netflix©.  As Hercule solved his case, I had the idea for this column.  N’est ce pas?

~~Sheila S. Hudson

Sheila's work appears in Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Patchwork Path, From the Heart, Vols. 1 & 2, plus numerous periodicals including Costumer Magazine. She established Bright Ideas to bring hope and inspiration through the written word.  Sheila has also served as president of Southeastern Writers Association.

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