Tag Archives: inspiration

Serendipity

Sometimes there are moments of harmony amid the clamour of our lives. Splinters of time when sounds, sights, tasks and tastes seem to align.

While I was working on Book 2 I had a couple of those moments. Book 2 is set at a lighthouse, near a cemetery. Its themes include death, mortality, grief and love. So when I heard Coldplay was releasing an album entitled Viva la Vida or Death and all his Friends, I knew I had to own it. With songs such as Cemeteries of London and 42 (with its very apt lyrics), there seemed to be a real synergy with what I was trying to do in Book 2. I love the album and played it a lot in between writing sessions. Indeed, I was thinking of including a lyric from one of the tracks in Book 2 until my agent advised that the copyright fee would most likely bankrupt me…

Another album that begged attention was Chimney’s Afire by Josh Pyke. I didn’t own any of Josh’s music and didn’t really know it. But when I heard it was his second album and the first single would be The Lighthouse Song it seemed to be a “snap” moment. I bought it. Liked it a lot. Am very glad my creative energy brought me to it.

The book I intend to start writing next is set in Tokyo and Melbourne. I wonder what that story will bring into my life.

Story-sense and a healthy dose of hope

When Spiderman’s Peter Parker gets an inkling that something villainous is going down, his “spider-sense” tingles. I like to think I have a story-sense that operates in a similar way.

My current manuscript is based on the sensory tinglings that came from staying in a lighthouse keepers’ cottage on Kangaroo Island. I already found the setting incredibly evocative but a visit to a tiny cemetery sealed the deal. There was a story lingering in the air that I couldn’t help but explore.

Perhaps this story-sense is a legacy of my time in journalism, where it’s more commonly referred to as “a nose for news”. Good journalists prosper according to their capacity to glean a story that their competitors are unaware of. As Canberra gallery veteran Laurie Oakes told ABC Radio today, journalists are like police officers; they are never completely off duty. Their nose for news should always be twitching. (It then comes down to personal and professional ethics what they report and what they overlook.)

I love it when my story-sense is triggered as this is usually followed by a surge in curiosity and creativity. The hard yakka of writing comes well after this conceptual moment – when I toil to hone inspiration into an idea that a reader might get excited (and stay excited) about.

Sometimes the story is much bigger than a mere narrative nugget you stumble across. Sometimes the story is so big we all live it. I can’t help but feel yesterday’s US presidential election was one of those moments.

My sense is that the world held its breath yesterday, hoping and praying for an electoral miracle. And we got one. This old planet of ours is gasping for healing and leadership – areas in which the US has been impotent yet arrogantly assertive for several years.

Now the president-elect of the ailing, unpopular superpower is a young man with a Christian mother, Muslim father and an international upbringing. Barack Obama’s charisma is palpable, his speech-making inspirational (plaudits to his writers) and, from a distance, he seems to personify calm, ethical leadership.

Maybe I’m cashing cheques on a story we’re all yet to write but there’s no harm in hoping. The energy yesterday as the world waited for an election result was amazing. So, no matter what your faith, perhaps we should all harness that collective hope again, praying that this amazing story has a happy ending for our planet. The beginning has certainly been fantastic.

Ideas and inspiration

One of the questions I was asked during a school visit yesterday was “where do I get my inspiration from?” The answer is anywhere and everywhere.

Inspiration can come from something I’m reading; a song lyric; snatches of overheard conversation on a train; a facial expression; scenery. Sometimes I’ll witness human interaction from afar – perhaps I’m stuck in traffic watching people on the footpath or at a restaurant waiting to eat – and I’ll find myself making up the dialogue or back stories to go with what I observe.

Once I’ve seen a situation or person or place that sends adrenaline surging into my imagination, the next step might be to tweak things a little. Asking myself “what might happen if…” can be where an idea takes flight and becomes a story.

If you read the teachers’ notes for Game as Ned, you’ll see how the plot took shape. In a nutshell, I wanted to write about a boy who didn’t speak. Having decided that, I asked two questions. Why doesn’t he speak? And, if he doesn’t speak, how might he stand up for himself? The answers gave me the basic structure for my story.

I recently attended a country football match where the longer I watched, the more the sights and sounds started to meld into a story: the smoke from a log burning in front of the coach’s box, the horn-honking spectators watching in their misty-windowed cars, the tweeting referees’ whistles on the adjacent netball courts, the retro haircuts and the all-permeating cold were cumulatively evocative. Then there was the veteran player prowling the boundary line like an old bull, stamping at the muddy ground and clearly itching to get a run.

By the time my mates and I had finished observing him, we’d written his entire back story. We decided he was a former club champion who’d been playing 30 years with the one team and was now too old and slow and frustrated with his fading vigour. I reckon he’d been married and divorced from the local hairdresser and only stuck around because he couldn’t split from the team. He was devastated when the coach went to put him on – and the quarter time siren sounded that precise moment. He started the second quarter on the bench again, regularly looking up at the coach, practically begging for a sniff of the Sherrin.

Eventually the coach gave the signal and ‘Bull’ roared on to the ground. The coach bellowed only one instruction: “Just don’t do anything stupid!”

Watching. Listening. Questioning. That’s where stories begin.