Friday, 8 March 2019

Seeking Inspirational Ideas • Lynne Garner

The diary I'd received as a gift
For the last three years I’ve been working as a tutor for my local council. Part of my departments remit is to reach those who’ve had a negative experience of education or haven’t had access to education as an adult. We cover a vast range of subjects and I’m lucky enough to teach the creative courses including writing. I teach two writing courses, one of which is designed to encourage students to discover their muse and write what they want to, for whatever reason they may have. Be it for therapeutic reasons or to make some form of income. 

My courses are just ten hours long, two hours per week, for five consecutive weeks. In January I started a new creative course. At the beginning of the first session I asked, “what’s stopping you from writing?” I received the normal replies, including: 

“I don’t have an imagination.”

“I have no idea where to start.”

“I’d quickly run out of ideas.”  


To convince my students they’d never run out of inspiration and that it’s everywhere (a prime example is Sandra Horn’s great post on how random thoughts and dreams can be used) I set the group a task. I asked them to shout out where they think they could ‘find’ inspiration. As they gave their suggestions, I wrote them on a board. Once they’d dried up, I added a couple of my own to their list. Just before I wrapped up the session I asked if any of them had received a diary for Christmas. A couple said they had. I shared with them I’d received one and was going to use it as my “I noticed today” diary. My aim was to write something I’d noticed in it every day. This could be anything including that I’d noticed a large bird of prey had chosen a very old, dying tree as it’s early morning perch. I admitted that although we were now in the second week of 2019, I’d still not started this process, but it was still my intention to do so. 

A day or so later I still hadn’t written anything my diary. I’d noticed loads of things and told myself I was going to write them down but hadn’t got around to it. I was beginning to feel a little guilty. It was then another idea struck me. Perhaps I needed a jolt and needed to do something else with this diary. I came up with the idea of filling it with suggestions of where to find inspiration. It also struck me that if I completed this then I could use as a teaching tool. So although over two weeks had passed I started from the 1stJanuary by using ideas I’d shared with my students. As I wrote down my usual suggestions, I found new ideas forming and I was soon in front of myself. Sadly, now we’re into March and I’m slowing down and struggling to fill my diary. So, I’ve decided to enlist your help and ask the same question I asked my students.

Where can you find inspiration? Any and all suggestions are welcome.

4 comments:

Umberto Tosi said...

What stimulating, creative tasks and approachs you offer! Your workshop students thank you, I'm sure. I've been writing for decades, but if somebody asks me for a story idea, my brain quick-freezes! I feel witless. (Unlike the true wit of Peter Ustinov, who, it's said, was once accosted in a hotel elevator by a fan who gushed: 'Oh my! You're Peter Ustinov! Say something funny!"
Ustinov replied "Kangaroo!"...)
My brain seems better at relating things than at inventing them. I find that if I "lay down the tracks" of a narrative - or a character - on paper, no matter how brief or vague (which I derive usually from a simple, random association), then my mind starts picking up bits and pieces from my surroundings that fit into the first draft "track" or bobbin. Soon the bobbin begins to gather color and shape as I rework my rough draft, over and over, like a ball of pizza dough.... My brain does this automatically, while I'm reading, or watching television, in converation, or simply gazing out a window or shopping. It doesn't matter that the original idea might seem threadbare. It gives me something to enrich by hanging other notions onto it... Anyway, for what it's worth, that's my worshop suggestion... Good luck ...

Susan Price said...

Where do I find inspiration?
Folk lore, myth and legend.
Old family stories.
History.
Newspaper headlines.
Friends' life stories.
Other people's books.
Film and tv.
Dreams... And what Umberto said about reworking any idea like pizza dough.
And putting two unlikely ideas together.

Sandra Horn said...

Oh, here it is! Perhaps it's me...I couldn't get the link to open so I tried leaving a message for you on Fb. I so enjoyed your post - such great ideas for getting people going with writing. It may be odd but I find inspiration in walking. Any old walking will do. There's something about the rhythm of the walking body that sets off rhythmic thoughts/words in my head. It's no good for concentrating on where I'm supposed to be going, though...

Lynne Garner said...

Umberto - just love the description of how you work "like a ball of dough." We all have to start somewhere and I think many of us pick up bits and pieces around us and these start to weave themselves into our work. I know that often when I'm woken up by my inner voice it's telling me to write something down and this is often something that I've seen or overheard during the previous days.

Susan - thanks for the list. I'm with you on the folk lore, myth and legend. They're a great starting point and with so many centuries between when they were first told and now we can add something completely differnt to them.

Sandra - I agree with the walking. When we had a dog and I'd be out for at least an hour sometimes two it gave the brain a chance to wander and work on ideas it had bouncing about in there.