Inspiration ignites the soul, creating passion, drive, and a need to accomplish what originally sparked your creativity. It's that intangible thing, unique to each one of us, which creates a burning desire to put words on paper. Many of us don't know how to label something so subjective.
When inspired, you sit down and write without thinking back on your original motivation. You type in a frenzy, hoping to capture the moment that is so fleeting; and if you do, you're on top of the world, consumed by unmistakable clarity, focus, and so enamored by your imagination that after you get those words on paper, you have no idea from whence they came.
As a oil painter, I've found my inspiration in a subject, a muse, a visual delicacy that stimulated a burst of colors, or a scene I wanted to capture. As a writer, my inspiration comes from many different avenues.
In my fiction writing, it most likely comes from a memory or a dream, and an urgency to record it before it dissipates. In my journalistic endeavors, the spark comes from an interesting person and my desire to translate that particular moment I spoke with them.
That's why this call for submissions was important to me. I wanted to know what drives you, motivates you to write, and if you could actually identify the source. Call it curiosity, or a need to network, but reaching out to you makes my world whole. Given the solitary nature of writing, it becomes essential to escape for a moment, mix with your peers, and share with others the things that make us unique, and unified, at the same time.
All of your submissions were so diverse that it clarified things to a certain extent. I know it's not your inspiration of all ages and times, but it does speak for this moment, like a snapshot of where you are in your writing and what it means to you.
This digital Polaroid records only this month, this year, and this stage of your writing career. Simply taking the time to submit something to us means that you believe strongly enough about your inspiration for writing, and that means a great deal to us too.
We were impressed with your submissions and have chosen to publish the following works below. Each of these essays offer an exceptional, yet assorted, voice of women writers dedicated to achieving their personal and professional writing goals today and in the near future. We hope these essays touch you in the same way they did us.
By Heidi K. Brown
My muse is an eight-year-old Australian Shepherd mix we rescued from the animal shelter last year. Her name is Rowan and she has inspired me from the day she first set paw into my writing room. She curls up under my desk with a melodramatic heavy sigh, as if to say, "Get writing already!" Since she came into my life, I have completed a screenplay, two novels, and published two additional editions of my first legal textbook.
Rowan is my daily reminder to keep up with the three "creative tools" that Julia Cameron recommends in The Artist's Way: Morning Pages, a weekly Artist's Date, and taking walks. Every morning, Rowan wakes up before I do, nudges my arm (sometimes I get lucky and get a lick too), and prompts me to get up, make coffee and write my three pages of longhand writing to get my brain clutter out of my system, while she looks at me encouragingly. In terms of Artist's Dates, I have become obsessed with painting oil portraits of Rowan, even though I consider myself a writer, not a painter. She looks at me with one brown eye and one blue, and patiently lets me paint her fluffy body onto canvas. And most importantly, she reminds me-urgently-three times a day to stop whatever I am doing that instant, and take her for walks. When I hurry her along to get back to my "day job" or my writing, she forces me to stop at her favorite empty lot so she can gaze out over the Pacific Ocean and let the Santa Ana winds blow through her long fluffy fur and tail.
She is a beautiful, sweet, sensitive dog who talks to me with a "woo woo" when she wants a walk, to be fed, or is simply genuinely happy to see me. My bond with Rowan has prompted me to decorate my writing environment with other dog-related inspirational pieces. On my wall, I have two oil portraits of my beloved beagle Beana who took care of me during a rough period in my life (which spawned my first novel), and a print of a dog portrait called "Rocky" by a Laguna Beach artist named Shari Vogt. On my desk sits a framed dog painting by my good NYC friend Janet from her "Brown Dog Series," and a colorful sketch by a New York City street artist named Bobbish. In bright picture frames, I have snapshots of Beana licking her face and looking melancholy in her crate with her sister, Kirby. And I also have a pewter pig from Morton's which strongly resembles Beana and Rowan as they sleep in a half-moon curl.
Rowan is my Muse because she encourages me without judgment, and gets exorbitantly excited whenever I receive a favorable letter back from a potential agent or a "fan letter" from readers of my legal textbooks. I am thankful every day that she became an integral part of my family and my writing life.
Bio: Heidi K. Brown is a writer trapped in a lawyer's body. Originally from Virginia, she lived in New York City for six years but recently moved to Laguna Beach, California. She has published three editions of a legal textbook for first-year lawyers with Thomson-West Publishing, but her true passion is her creative writing. She has written a screenplay and two novels. She counsels young lawyers on their legal writing, and puts together writing workshops at a yoga retreat in Mexico. She happily resides in Laguna with her better half, Mark, and their adopted Australian Shepherd, Rowan.
By Lauren Baratz-Logsted
My daughter, Jackie, who just turned seven, is my muse/inspiration. The idea for The Thin Pink Line, the first book I sold but the sixth I wrote, came to me when I found myself pregnant with her after 10 married years of thinking I'd never be pregnant. While home sick, the thought occurred to me: What if some crazy woman was making the whole thing up - the pregnancy, the complications, everything ? So I sat down to write a dark comedy about a woman who makes the whole thing up. The book wound up getting a coveted starred Kirkus review, sold in 10 countries and was optioned for a film. Muses don't get much stronger than that. And then there's the nine-book series for kids her and I have started writing together along with my husband. . .
But Jackie is my muse for a far greater reason than the fact that she inspires some of my greatest ideas and essentially gave me my writing career. She's my muse because I'm smart enough to know the books I write aren't the most important books ever written - none of my books have stopped wars or cured diseases - and yet I always have her in the back of my mind when I'm working, hoping that when she grows up she'll be proud of what her mommy has done.
Bio: Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of seven published books, including Vertigo and Angel's Choice. Lauren is also Jackie's mommy.
Note: To read WOW!'s interview with Lauren, CLICK HERE.
By Feng Hutchins
There is no doubt that Chinese kuei is an inspiration for my short stories. Ghost stories from my childhood in Malaysia have left a lasting impression. I was raised to believe that if I behaved well, ghosts wouldn't bother me. But since I have broken all the rules, the restless hungry ghosts have followed me into my writing.
In my early years, I disobeyed the rules of Chinese culture and failed to show proper respect for the spirit world. At the time it seemed "uncool" and my approach so much more rational. Whenever my grandparents or parents talked about ghosts, I would try to get away and think, "Not those stupid ghost stories again." Also, I was attending Catholic schools, which gave me a western perspective. I found I prefer wearing a crucifix to an amulet for protection.
However, the ghosts were there still. They never left. In the dark corners and recesses of my mind they waited. Following the funeral for my father they asserted themselves, and stories of the supernatural began pouring from me. I found this was a rich and deep source for material. The Chinese spiritual beliefs easily adapted into western plots, and the characters effortlessly portrayed the human condition.
Now, much of what I learned of the spirit world is through research. The actual cases and incidents reported in academic and anthropological papers were iconic to Chinese beliefs and served as models for my stories. I feel sad when I think of the knowledge and stories that were forever lost with the death of my father and grandparents. By telling ghost stories, I keep their memories alive.
Bio: 1 cup Sweet and Sour Mom; 1 cup Hot and Spicy Wife; 1/2 cup Dim Sum Lover; 1/4 cup Kungfu Movie Addict; 1 Tbs Storyteller; 1 pinch Miser. Stir in Chinese and Malaysian cultures to taste. Mix well and chill. Yields dozens of yummy stories, fun experiences and delightful friends.
By Carrie Hulce
Okay admit it, one of your favorite pastimes is to "Shop 'til you drop." Have you ever taken a serious look at your favorite place to shop?
We always think that our inspirations may only come from a single object, like a teddy bear or our pets, but how about the shopping mall? Have you ever looked at the old man in the hat and coat gazing intently at a tea pot, and wondered, what could he possibly be thinking about? What about the woman who is walking with 12 children, could she be a teacher or could all the children with her actually be hers?
When many of us shop, even being a writer, we might have the tendency to turn off the world around us. It could be because we are on a mission to find that perfect gift for someone, or the stores are so crowded for the holidays that we don't want to bother with observing the world around us at that moment.
I know you are probably thinking, maybe this lady is on to something. Maybe I can find inspiration in my favorite store or shopping mall. In today's society, many of the builders of our malls have tried to change up the environment some. Maybe by creating a special theme for the interior of the mall, making it look like an art gallery or even a full functioning theme park. Gosh! Could you just imagine some of the story ideas that might come out of one of them? The kid hanging upside down in a roller coaster, face completely red; the boys laughing at a friend of theirs while he has his head stuck inside a garbage receptacle.
Even though you might be in a rush, or on a "Shopping High" take a few minutes to look around you. You might just find your best seller in your favorite mall.
Bio: Carrie Hulce is from Rio Rancho, New Mexico. She is the mother of 3 boys, 2 dogs and 3 cats and that doesn't include all of the other little pets running around the house. She also works every day to help those in need at a homeless shelter.
After studying business for a couple of years, she decided that it wasn't enough, she switched her efforts into writing.
Carrie has been writing and submitting stories for over 12 years.
"Life is full of stories, you just need to listen to them."
Inspiration Is A Spoiled Brat
By Annette Fix
In a utopian world, there would be a reality show where I could call a stern British nanny to come to my house and put my muse on the naughty chair until she promises to behave properly. Since this premise is unlikely to catch on with the ABC programming executives, I guess I'm on my own.
Unfortunately, Little Miss Inspiration doesn't show up often. But when she does, she pops in, completely unannounced at the most inopportune times. While I'm in the shower, shampooing my hair, she's been known to whisper in my ear: "Hey, listen to this.I've finally got the perfect dialogue for that scene in Chapter 10 where you've been stumped for weeks." Of course, by the time I've finished rinsing out the conditioner, shaving my legs, and toweling off, I can't remember a single word of her brilliant suggestion.
Driving. That's another of her favorite times to jump into my head, giddy about a complicated plot resolution-at the exact moment I'm trying to merge across four lanes of traffic, so I don't miss my freeway exit. Her idea immediately dissolves in a surge of adrenaline when I'm almost creamed by a semi-truck carrying Bimbo cookies.
It's frustrating, but I take full responsibility for my muse's lack of discipline. I know I'm a lax creative parent. I allow her to come and go as she pleases, and never hold her accountable for doing anything productive. In the name of free-spirited creativity, I've created my own monster.
I finally decided it was time for some tough love. I armed myself with a few supplies to rein her in and train her to focus: a 60-minute kitchen timer, a digital recorder, and a bottle of Bum Glue*
I apply the Bum Glue to the computer chair, sit her down at the keyboard, and set the timer for one hour.
It hasn't been easy. To my muse, the new regimen feels like the equivalent of a rolled up newspaper whacked across her ample bottom. She always starts with a tantrum-whining excuses why she's not ready to write yet. When that doesn't let her off the hook, she stares at the blank screen and pouts, refusing to engage.
I've found that the best way to get her started is to reread previously written passages, or allow some freewriting. In no time at all, the keys click and the pages fill with text. When the timer rings, she ignores it and continues. It feels good.
The digital recorder has become extremely useful when my muse shows up in a place where typing or writing isn't possible. Just by adding a cord, I've made it into a nifty high-tech necklace. In the beginning, she stammered and stumbled her way through a recording. After some practice, she's become comfortable, and even fond of recording herself singing horribly off-key and listening to it for her perverse amusement. Best of all-she's actually recording snippets of dialogue, social observations, character sketches, setting descriptions, and plot ideas so they are preserved in a tangible form.
Little Miss Inspiration is finally learning some discipline, and for that, she deserves a gold star.
*Bum Glue not available in stores. Concept provided by Bryce Courtenay.
Bio: Annette Fix is an author and spoken word storyteller based in Laguna Niguel, CA. An excerpt from her e-book, The Hungry Writer's Guide to Tracking and Capturing a Literary Agent, was featured in WOW!'s September 2006 Issue. She also wrote and conducted an interview with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett in WOW!'s January 2007 Issue. Annette's memoir, The Break-Up Diet, will be available in October 2007.
By Barbara Altamirano
My inspiration tends to come from different places. Sometimes it's a funny story that I want to share. Sometimes it's a sad experience where writing about it helps preserve my sanity. But most often, I guess, it's that I just have so much to say but few people to say it to. As a stay-at-home mom, I don't have a lot of adult interaction anymore unless you count my husband and whether he counts is debatable. As a typical guy, he doesn't always have the patience for the in-depth discussions that I would like to have. It's too much of a struggle just to get his attention away from the TV.
Thank goodness for my best friend. I usually catch up with her on Sundays, with our phone conversations sometimes lasting hours, much to our husband's mutual dismay. But since that time only skims the surface of all there is to say, I write.
Consequently, almost everything I write is nonfiction. Fiction has always seemed too difficult; I just didn't think I was creative enough to come up with characters and situations out of thin air. But then I ran across WOW's fall fiction contest with the writing prompt. I still wasn't sure that I could do it, but the prompt intrigued me. Over the next few days I continued to think about it, and while on one of the countless drives to drop off my kids, I thought of an idea based on - or inspired by - a cheer that my daughter learned on her softball team. So, I entered the contest but, I didn't exactly have high hopes. But I was amazed when an email told me that I had received an honorable mention. Suddenly, I began to think that maybe fiction wasn't beyond my reach, after all.
So, I guess inspiration can come from many places. As writers, we can only hope that we continue to find it.
Bio: Barbara Altamirano is a freelance writer living in Connecticut, with her husband, three daughters, two cats and a fish. She is the author of a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor. While mostly writing nonfiction, with the help of WOW! - Women on Writing's fall contest, she has begun to write fiction as well. She is also currently in the process of writing a book length memoir.
As you can see, each writer has a different voice, drive, and reason they write. We couldn't have asked for a more diverse selection. There was Heidi with her love for dogs, Lauren who writes stories for her daughter, Feng who writes with respect for the spirit world and for her ancestors, Carrie who uses the mall as inspiration for creating characters, Annette with her stick-to-it-ness and the hilarious visual of bum glue, and Barbara who finds inspiration in life and writing prompts.
I've always believed in sharing, so I will give you my list of things that really inspire me to write no matter what:
- A good glass of wine
- Memories of my mother
- Reading a good book
- Stories from a good friend
My good friend isn't too happy about the last one, but she enjoys reading the finished stories. "As long as you don't write a book about my life," is usually how the conversation ends; either that or, "Are you recording this?" She knows I always carry a mp3 recorder for impromptu interviews.
These essays have shown us the various places we come from and some of the things we hold dear. We all have distinctive personalities that come through in our writing, but one thing we all have in common is a great desire to write and a muse to make it happen. I want to thank all of you who wrote in and shared your inspirational stories. Now, get out there and write! I know I'm going to.