Several years ago, I drove to Santa Barbara unaware that a truck had dumped a load of nails onto the 101 freeway. By the time I spotted the scattered cargo it was too late. I ended up with four—yes four!—flat tires. As my son and I waited on the side of the road for the Auto Club he asked, “Mom, are you going to use this in a book?
Ah, inspiration. It can hit anytime, anywhere and sometimes when you least expect it. Boom. Bang. Fireworks! That’s part of the fun and delight of being a writer. No matter what happens good or bad there’s always the possibility that a story will pop out of it. That goes double for vacations.
During a trip to Paris, my husband and I enjoyed a moonlight cruise along the Seine. It was a scene right out of a Harlequin novel. That is until disaster struck. As we emerged from beneath a bridge, a bunch of hooligans dumped barrels of motor oil on our boat, creating havoc.
Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, but what a mess! The fun began when the boat docked. Irate travelers stormed onto shore screaming in what seemed like fifty different languages at the befuddled owner—an enormous Asian man who arrived on a mini-cycle.
Now, I ask you. What better place for a writer than Paris at midnight surrounded by a mob of enraged foreigners? While the others ranted and raved about ruined clothes, I stood reveling in a new story idea. At one point my husband pulled me aside and told me to stop smiling. He worried that the others would think I’d planned the whole affair.
Not all inspiration can be found in the form of disaster.
A chance remark by a friend over lunch gave me the basis for a story about a woman who regained her hearing after twenty-five years. A visit to the dentist helped me work out a plot problem by way of an article in an old magazine. A group of children playing in the park gave me an idea for a pivotal scene.
An early dictionary defined the word inspiration as an immediate influence of God. The word also means to breath in, inhale. If what Thomas Merton said is true about “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth planting something in his soul,” then even mundane happenings can be turned into poems, books, music, art and even scientific discoveries.
All we have to do is pay attention and breathe.
Of course, as every creative person well knows, a light bulb moment is only the beginning. Sir Isaac Newton’s inspiration came from an apple falling from a tree, but it took a lifetime to fully develop the science of mechanics which explains the force of gravity.
Inspiration is nothing more than an idea that hasn’t been put to work. Once an idea is in hand a writer must then go after the story, sometimes with a sledgehammer. That’s what Rod Serling called the bleeding part.
Who knows? One day I might even hammer out a story from those four flat tires.
Do you have a favorite “light bulb” moment? If not, where do you get your best ideas?
N.Y. Times bestselling author Margaret Brownley has published more than thirty books and is a former Romance Writers of America RITA© finalist. She also wrote for a daytime soap and currently has a story in the Four Weddings and a Kiss collection. A Nutcracker Bride will be published in October followed by Book one in her Undercover Ladies series, Petticoat Bride. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.
And the winner is… Dianna Auton!
Dianna, if you’ll send Margaret your snail mail address through this contact link, she’ll send you your autographed copy of the book!