After a couple of relaxing days of rest, I feel vitalised, refreshed and ready to tackle the projects I’m working on. I find this is how I best inspire myself: by letting ideas float around in the back of my head whilst enjoying myself doing something simple and enjoyable, be it meandering around an art gallery, cooking, or watching TV. I think I’m quite lucky in this regard; I don’t need to do drastic or expensive things to keep the creative juices flowing. However, my approach does also lead to easy distraction, and I can sometimes spend days on a new book or a new video game and completely lose focus. Where’s the middle ground?
I think part of the issue is my rather varied focus. I find I often skip between various thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, etc. in the course of a conversation, let alone a day, so I often need quite rigid and direct focus when I’m working on a particular project. That being said, if the ideas aren’t flowing, I do find switching off with a good book or by cooking a new recipe really keeps me going, but what if I then get distracted by it? The easy answer is intense work and banal distractions, but (from experience) I just get bored with the banal distractions, and look for more engrossing ones, leading to said issue. The obvious answer is in the variance: break up ‘brain’ work with something far more physical, ie. walking, but then laziness kicks in. Why go for a meander and let my brain power-nap when I could be watching the latest episode of whatever’s-popular-and-I’ve-been-following-on-TV?
I’ve found, in the past, that I can’t maintain a healthy balance either. Splitting my day into work and work-break doesn’t work, but neither does splitting my week. I think I’ve found a more natural rhythm, basically week on week off, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. So my days fall into relaxing, with occasional scribbled notes, whilst engaging with someone else’s stories and ideas (through any medium), or intense writing, broken up by walks, cookery or half an hour of TV brain-space. The trick is starting every day on the premise that it is the latter, but accepting that the former is not ‘bad’ or ‘unproductive’, but a necessary part of the process. I think the days where I spend an hour or two on browsing various online journals and wikis are where I get most of my ideas from, along with all of the other unavoidable cultural bumpf.
It seems hard to decide where inspiration comes from, as most of the elements are so varied. No doubt they come from what I read, what I watch, what I experience, but nothing beats just browsing the web about a topic that interests you. Luckily, I can do that on the go as well with my beloved Blackberry, so every moment can be a new idea, or at least learning about something random and strange. Which then, often, leads to one of those highly creative days, as described above… There is a system here, a method to this madness, all tied together by approaching every day like I’ll write something brilliant, and keeping a positive attitude if all I create is empty crisp packets and a new arse-groove in the couch.
Has anyone else tried to analyse their process as a writer, and where their inspiration comes from? I’d be interested to hear how others approach this peculiar job.