Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Feeding Creativity

"Dance at Bougival" by Renoir

I'm between writing projects right now--I have one book out on submission, a completed rough draft that needs some time to sit before I look at it again, and I haven't figured out which project to start next. So instead of trying to meet a daily word count goal, I've turned my attention to my editing business and to "filling the well," a.k.a. immersing myself in things that inspire me.

Creative inspiration comes from all over. The picture above is a painting that I fell in love with when I saw the (huge) original in Boston when I was 16. When I was a senior in high school, I used it as the model for a relief tile I made in a pottery class. There are also certain songs that touch my creative side as well as my heart; one in particular that has always moved me is "The Old Ways" by Loreena McKennitt.

And, of course, I'm obsessed with learning new things. Lately I've been listening to a series of lectures on the Italian Renaissance. I've been enjoying them, but more than that, I've been gleaning from them. My writer's brain is constantly picking up bits and storing them.

For example, I never knew that cities like Florence, that were democracies, have many more open spaces (piazze) inside the city where people could gather, whereas those cities that were ruled by princes discouraged public gatherings for fear of revolt, and so those cities are more compact. The princes also tended to have big, walled palaces inside the cities, whereas the walls of the democracies were mainly around the outside of the city, to protect from foreign attackers as opposed to the local citizenry. My writer's brain immediately said, "Well, that's a good world-building tool," and stored it away.

And characters! Did you know there was an archbishop who was excommunicated THREE TIMES, and proudly claimed he'd only said mass once in his entire career? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, there are men like Federico da Montafeltro, who was a hugely successful mercenary captain, then duke, but also a devoted husband and father. He valued art and literature, and turned his tiny city of Urbino into a center for culture and education. And if that doesn't sound interesting enough, how about this: He lost his right eye in a tournament accident, and to compensate, he had his surgeons cut off the bridge of his nose so he could see better with his left eye. As my husband said when I related the story, "That man was hardcore."

Oh, and don't forget the plot devices. Assassinations, failed coups, successful coups, political marriages that result in wildly successful women... all with lots of detail that I can go look up later as long as I remember the main ideas.

These types of things make me itch to go to Italy. Oh yeah, and to tell stories.

What makes you want to create?


  1. First of all, I love The Old Ways song, and second, those Italian stories are awesome.

    What usually spurs my desire to create is generally a frustratingly bad story that makes me want to write a better one out of protest. Not a very good reason, but the rebellious thought of not wanting to accept a certain (even fictional) situation as reality has helped me create my own on many occasions.

    Also, your posts are awesome!

    1. Thanks! Your comment about being inspired by frustratingly bad stories made me smile. Often when I read something that seems sub-par, it gives me motivation to write SOMETHING, because it helps silence my inner critic (I start thinking, "hey, I'm not so bad"); but I can't think of anything specific I've written that's been directly inspired by something I read that I didn't like. I remember Brandon Sanderson saying that he started writing because he wanted to fix stories that made him mad, though, and that he used to rewrite endings in his head all the time as a kid.

  2. This post inspires me creatively! ;) I find really great books very inspiring - they remind me why I love to write and make me want to get back to it. Also certain kinds of music (it depends on the day and what I'm writing!), interesting tidbits here and there, old legends, and autumn. Everything about autumn.

    1. Since you mentioned both great books and autumn, my mind went straight to the Autumn Wood in "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making." That was definitely a book that inspired me to want to write!


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