Friday, 27 May 2011

I is for Inspiration (or should that be Imagination)

I really wanted this to be I is for me, because in many ways that sums up my sense of humour, but clearly that post is reserved for 'X'. ;)

Obviously, I am not going to reach the end of the alphabet by the end of May. However, this is the Renegade A to Z, and what kind of Renegade would I be if I stuck to the rules...? ;) I suppose I could have done a Renegade Z to A... starting with Zombies. (come on, what else is Z going to be?)

The interesting thing about inspiration is that it occurred to me we sometimes use it to mean motivation, then I looked up the definition and it turns out that that is in fact the correct usage, it is the thing that fires us up, that animates us, that gets us moving.

Well that isn't the inspiration I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about what sparks the imagination. Where all the stories and plots come from. Not in a more general sense, I'm not talking about Jungian archetypes or Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces or Booker's Seven Basic Plots.

And I don't mean influences (another 'I', how interesting). So I am heavily influenced by comics, particularly the superhero brand, and Space Opera and Cyberpunk and quest fantasy. These are all things that sit in the bubbling jambalaya pot in the back of my mind, a spoonful of which goes into every story I write. But where do the specific stories come from?

If I could answer that quantifiably and fully I would be a rich man, the solution to the mechanism of human consciousness and thought lies in that answer, and the best answer modern science has is, 'maybe it has something to do with quantum mechanics?' (Actually, I'm surprised no one has suggested dark matter, it seems to be the solution to many other unknowns).

Some of my stories come from seeing book blurbs and movie trailers and making something of my own from some small part of that (without knowing what the original author did with it in full). But when I'm struggling for something, when I've flicked through my notepad and nothing there is inspiring me (motivating me ;) ) to actually put fingers to keyboard, what do I do?

I look at art.

There are a couple of blogs I have on my feed that throw interesting SF at me on a regular basis:
Concept Ships
Concept Robots
Concept Tanks

And there are also a few individual artists I follow. The other major source is a yearly digest of sorts, called Spectrum. Spectrum purports to gather 'the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art', which translates as an interesting and varied selection of fantasy & SF art covering a range of outlets and mediums. The quality varies a little year on year, but it's usually fairly high.

For example, my flash, Red Tank, was inspired by the bottom image on this page. But you can see that the image provided only a tiny (if important) spark... where the rest came from... who knows? ;)

Inspiration is one of those hard to quantify qualities. It's the basis of one of the artist's great existential fears: What is inspiration? Where does it come from? If I don't know where it comes from, what can I do about it if it goes away? Please don't go away.

What I'm struggling with right now, though, is the other kind of inspiration. Modern artists know well the draw of the internet, it's easy to find something to do that isn't writing. Most of this post, for example, has been sat in draft form for about a week now, just waiting to be finished.

In terms of my fiction, I try to keep several weeks worth in hand. So if I have a busy week, or a week without much writing, I still have something to post. Because I know that intending to write and actually writing are two very different beasts...

I'll actually be taking a break from my main flash site (Missing Pieces) in a few weeks, when I reach the one year anniversary. Partly that's because I want to work on some longer pieces without the pressure of feeling like I have to post something every week. And partly it's just to take a break from that same pressure, to sit back and relax without the constant thought at the back of my head that relaxing one day means I'll have to crack on the next day to ensure I have something out for people to read...

I really intended to try and push the RenegadeAtoZ and hit a couple of letters a day to catch up and make the June finale... which I've clearly failed to do. The last week or two I just crashed a little on the writing front. It happens, I don't beat myself up about it too much because I know it'll happen in the future, and I just need to settle, and pick it up again. Partly, this time, that's down to my writing habits - I write in the early mornings, when I have time to myself, so a couple of late nights really screws that up...

But enough whinging... ;D This has been the letter I, for inspiration in the sense of both imagination and motivation.

Go see the RenegadeAtoZ in all its glory. Where a few fine bloggers have already completed theirs in timely fashion... ;)

I'll just keep telling myself I'm late because I'm playing up to the renegade theme... ;)

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