Lately, I’ve happened upon several instances of writers being asked, “What inspired you to write your book?” or “Where do you get all your ideas?” There seems to be this consensus that if you write a novel, you have to be inspired directly by something. However, the glamorous answers of dreams and train rides don’t apply to every writer. Often, it’s hard to pinpoint one exact thing or time when inspiration struck, which makes for an underwhelming origin story. Many a writer must bemoan recounting the inspiration of a book because, invariable, this question of inspiration comes up every single time I’ve seen a writer asked questions by his or her fans.
For me, being asked, “what inspired you?” is an absolutely terrifying prospect. My answer, right now anyway, is, “what doesn’t?” Okay, so rhetorical questions are rude, but it seems unfair to claim one specific thing inspired me to write one other specific thing. I’m inspired by history and current events. I’m inspired by other books I read. I’m inspired by a picture, by a myth, by something my sister said as a joke. And all of those tidbits can go into one book.
My current project has no origin story, or well, not one inspiration. It’s a conglomeration of ideas I’ve played around with in other projects that just clicked with this one. There was no thunderbolt, no crash of cymbals. It was simply a concept that stuck with me from an abandoned story, the idea of a girl messenger, an unimportant girl who becomes important when she ends up with the wrong message. I was set on writing another novel when the “what if instead I do this?” crossed my mind. Just for a break, I opened a word document and I started writing. And I kept writing.
I don’t think there’s really such a thing as “inspiration,” some quantifiable thing those creative folks possess that others do not. It seems elitist, at best, and at worst, takes away from the artist’s hard work. Instead of being ask where my ideas come from, like they are outside of me, I’d like to be asked, “what influences you?” Then I can tell you. I can tell you about the books that changed my life, about the memories I keep close from childhood, about the music that moves my soul, or about the thousand other things that shaped me into the artist I am. And I promise, it wouldn’t be a boring answer.