(The title is from a Chuck Prophet song on his No Other Love CD. Good stuff…)
I’m being totally serious when I say that I visualize my creativity as a monkey in a fez and vest, kind of like this:
Surly looking, isn’t he? I like to call him “Melvin,” and, like most muses, he’s a temperamental little fucker. I can’t trust him one bit, so it’s imperative that I make a strategy for finding inspiration even when Melvin is pitching one of his typical temper tantrums — jumping all over the room, screeching like a banshee, knocking stuff over, flinging poo, and pissing on everything… my mind is a weird place. (That’s not my own original image, by the way. I borrowed it from here.)
Pacifying Melvin means feeding him, and Melvin feeds on strange and interesting bits of trivia, on oddities, on scraps of mythologies and legends and lore… but even that doesn’t seem to keep him happy for long. “Where do you get your inspiration?” is a fantastic question to ask an artist; it’s also a great way to earn yourself the enmity of a creative person because it’s not an easy question to answer. I get a fair number of story ideas from Melvin the Monkey Muse, but that’s not the most reliable source for the reason I mentioned above. My back up plan is as follows:
I mine a great deal of story ideas from things going on all round us; I use my RSS feed reader to bring me a steady diet of happenings. I also get a lot of ideas from the fiction that I read. Invariably an author will pose a question not answered by his or her story… it happens, you just have to keep an eye out for it so you can catch it when it does (this isn’t easy if the writer is particularly good at editing, or if he/she has a really good editor). There are story strings everywhere; story prompts in conversations and in news reports, in newspaper clippings and in the shit people say while they’re waiting for the bus… it’s all a part of listening and reading like a writer (which I mentioned in a post some time back… this one, I believe: https://thewriteexperience.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/blog-fri-er-sunday/). Now there’s a book out there by the title, Read Like a Writer, and I’m not attempting to infringe on that author’s formula or ideas (I own the book, I have not yet read the book but I’m definitely interested in what she has to say so I can compare it to what I’ve been doing since I was like fifteen…); I read a fiction book and I break it down to see how and why it works… that’s it. Simple right?
There are very definite and deliberate reasons why some stories work and others do not… both types of story are worth examining carefully… both are worth dissecting. I assert that it’s just as important to learn from the mistakes of others as it is to learn from the successes of others. We as creative types will invariably be victims to our own pitfalls, so I’m going to say that it’s best to avoid the documented disasters of other people… I’m just saying… I’m a big fan of dodging misery… Melvin is a good source of that already.
I guess the point here is that inspiration is really around us all the time, and in everything we read, hear, see, experience… you get the idea. It’s a matter of stopping, absorbing, and making something out of these snippets provided by the world around us. It’s important to stay connected to the world around us (even when the world around us seems to deliver only news of tragedy), and it’s all too easy for the creative type to sequester his/herself… hermitage is part of the game sometimes. It’s just as important to have strong feelings about the things which are happening around you, to have a deep emotional engagement and to feel passionate about the things that are important to you. This maybe is the magic behind inspiration… I don’t know… it seems to work for me. I like to share, so I hope it works for you. If’n you got ideas you’d like to share, use the comment box below.