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The Elusive Inspiration by Lyn Hemphill

I’ve had writers block pretty much all year (because 2020), and it’s been leading me to frantically wonder where inspiration actually comes from, and how I can synthesise it in my mind. I haven’t had any luck so far, but I’m nothing if not stubborn. Here’s what I’ve worked out so far.

Writing: Great. The times I’ve had the most ideas have been the times I’ve already been writing frantically. It’s the main reason I write notes on all the ideas I have, whether I’ll ever get to them is another matter. Writing tends to be a positive feedback loop of inspiration, and I’m most likely to come up with a new idea when I’m already neck-deep in an old one. That is not helpful now, though I am trying to force myself to write 200 words a day in the hopes that it’ll jump start the whole thing!

Weather: I have to be really careful to keep the time of year in mind when writing a particular story. I’ve had early drafts of novels jump around the seasons depending on when I’d written each chapter, the feel of cold or rain or spring sunshine sneaking into my characters’ minds because that’s how I’ve been feeling at the time. But it’s not as if the weather itself can trigger off a bunch of ideas or energy for writing because there’s been all sorts of weather this year and I haven’t been able to write during any of it.

Media: sure, movies and books can send me off into a daydream, particularly if there’s a particularly frustrating bit of miscommunication, but that’s what fanfic is for! It’s not much good for helping me to work out what Talia and Kitty should do next in The Willing. That’s a positive, of course, otherwise I’d end up copying someone else’s story!

Places: every story I’ve ever written has been rooted pretty firmly in a specific place or two. If I think about the novels I’ve written, each of them has a home that’s clear in my mind, and part of that is because I take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings. I’m lucky to live in rural Oxfordshire and can sit in a field while my dog walks herself (she’s the best!) and write. Some of the stories that live in my mind most vividly are the ones that have sprung up from a place I love, whether it’s a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland, a block of flats I used to walk past in London that had a really cool courtyard, or a market on a roundabout in Nairobi. The Willing is set in Oxford, which seems really accessible – surely if I want inspiration I should go hang out there for a day or two! Unfortunately Covid makes that difficult at the moment. Maybe I should get on Street View and hang out there virtually, though.

Well. Now I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow! The quest for the elusive inspiration beast continues!

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