Converting passion into inspiration

The compulsion to create stories is an omnipresent passion inside a writer. Each story, short or long, deep or simple, represents a piece of the inner mind and emotion of its author. The inspiration behind the stories, however, does not always flow easily from the writer`s keyboard, no matter how deep the writer`s passion. As a graduate student pursuing a master`s degree in Creative Writing, I have a dream of entering the publishing industry as a fiction author and editor. To achieve my dream, I am often compelled to find a way of purposefully channeling my inner passion for storytelling into a very focused, intentional search for the right story to tell. Although I have not discovered an infallible three-step process to finding inspiration, I have found three avenues of imagination that often direct me to the idea for which I am searching.

I begin my search for inspiration by observing the muses behind every character in every story ever writtenthe ordinary people around me. While the characters in a fictional story seem much grander than the people we meet from day to day, the best story draws on the personalities, flaws, victories, failures, humor, and kindness of the true heroes and heroines of the worldthe real people. Sitting in a coffee shop with my caffeine and my laptop, I listen to the conversations, watch the encounters, and feel the emotions of diverse individuals going about their day.

Observing possible characters that could make up my story provides the foundation for many ideas, but to help these thoughts brimming in the back of my mind to solidify, I then explore the possible settings of my story. Nothing clears away the cobwebs and confusion of hearing fifty conversations and watching countless people milling around a crowded coffee shop like a stroll through nature. As I walk through a quiet field, enter the cool shade of the woods, and listen to the peaceful rippling of a secluded stream, I begin to understand my characters better. In this setting, my story feels slightly melancholic, peaceful, and somewhat idyllic. If this atmosphere clashes with the maturing characters and plotline streaming through my head, I leave it behind for a stroll through a small-town street, before following my senses all the way to a loud and bustling city, until I find the place where my characters settle into the story my mind has begun to sketch.

At this point in my search for inspiration, I have gleaned many ideas on the characters and settings of my story, but I sometimes still need one final push toward the finish line even as I feel the structure of my story forming in my head. For this last step, I begin skimming through my favorite books that I have read countless times, grasping once more the magical elements of those familiar tales that have stuck with me while so many other stories have been forgotten. No story is completely original, and while I do not want to copy the stories of another author, studying other great storytellers often stimulates my own creativity.

As I confessed at the beginning, these are not three foolproof steps to inspiration that magically create the perfect story every time. Nevertheless, these enlightening exercises do always succeed in awakening my imagination to countless possibilities. The people, places, and well-known stories around us provide the best source of inspiration for new stories yet to be told.