Motivation As Opposed to Inspiration
It’s no secret that reading books, watching movies, conversation, and just good old-fashioned people watching can help writers spark ideas for their work. One never knows when that argument you hear in line at Starbuck’s will give birth to a central scene in your next novel. Sitting at the county fair will spark inspiration for more than one potential character for your short story, I have little doubt. Which is why you should of course always carry a notebook or something with you at all times to write down such inspirations.
Yet I find that sometimes what a writer needs is a more general stimulus. A motivation rather than an inspiration. Not the sort of motivation where you visualize your goals as a writer, but motivation to get down to writing something new in the near future. (Such motivation is not always easy to come by, for me, let me tell you.)
Specific inspiration can of course spark motivation. Once you see that old man in the Metallica t-shirt, you can’t wait to get home to write a story about him. (Or of course, someone like him, not actually him.) Other times, however, I encourage you to release the need or even the desire to be inspired by something specifically, and let a general stimulus to create enter your bloodstream. This can be done in any number of ways, but I find that experiencing life, particularly in the presence of others doing the same thing, is one of the most efficient examples.
This weekend I went to the local race track and casino. I’ve mentioned this place before as surprisingly compatible to the introvert experience, and as you can imagine it is a fantastic place to people watch. All walks of life, all races, colors, creeds will find themselves at the track. Even children who come to see horses run and nothing more. If you’re already thinking such a place is fertile ground for story fodder, you’re absolutely correct, and it’s worth a trip to such a place for that alone. But remember, I’m not talking about specific inspiration today. I’m talking about general motivation.
The place is generally motivating for an artist in the sense that it is humanity everywhere. It bustles with activity. Whatever you may think of gambling, a track, especially on a warm and clear Saturday night is bursting with life being lived. Exposure to the broader notion of life being alive, or sensory experience being pursued warmed up my desire to create busy worlds and interesting characters myself. i didn’t find one specific story or character at the track this weekend, so my notebook remained in my pocket. But I did find a human electricity that should help throw the switch for anyone in the arts. Humanity, in your face.
It doesn’t have to be a track, of course. It could be a carnival, or a shopping mall. It could be just about anywhere and anything that involves collections of people engaged. Visit these places, and do things like this. Just take it in. If a specific idea presents itself, than of course write it down. Hold on to it. But if you think you can, just bathe in the personality of being for at least a few minutes without bein on the look out for ideas.
Just get living, get feeling, and let that kick you in the ass to go write something that is also infused with living and feeling, even if it has nothing at all to do with something you saw, heard or smelled while you were there. That feeling alone can provide it’s own inspiration long after the actual people watching is over.