Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Inspired

by Christie Kelley

One question every writer gets asked is: Where do you get your inspiration for stories? I get ideas from
everywhere…a story in the news, a movie that didn’t take a plot where I thought it should, or a walk in the park. It’s easy to find something that will inspire me to write a story but it takes more than just a quick thought to make it into a plot. That’s the hard part. So, I thought I’d share my favorite way to mull over a plot.

I spent yesterday painting the outdoor bar on our deck. Sorry I couldn’t post a pict
ure but the camera battery needs to charge. I’m a little sore and still a little tired but I feel great. I got so much done! And I don’t mean just painting.

I know so many people who hate painting and part of me understands that. I truly hate the prep work involved in painting, the cleaning of the area, the taping, and putting down cloths. But once I finished the prep work, I spent four hours by myself, thinking about nothing. It’s amazing how productive my mind is when I’m doing something tedious.

After only a few minutes of painting, I had finally figured out the plot for the second book in a series I will be proposing to my editor soon. The whole book suddenly made sense. And the bar was getting painted too!

My husband’s theory on this is it’s the paint fumes. He might be right.

It’s interesting how the mind works (at least my mind). I can be sitting in front of my PC with a blank page in front of me and nothing
comes to mind. But when I get my body working on something where I don’t have to think, suddenly the plots start come to me.

Of course, now I have a problem. My house is painted and I can’t think of a thing in it that needs paint. But I still have another book to plot!

Help me come up with mindless things that I can do to help me plot!

And for the writers, how do you plot for your synopses? For the readers, what do you do when you need inspiration for something?

59 comments:

Helen said...

is he coming to my place

Have Fun
Helen

PinkPeony said...

Ooh Helen! Congrats!

Hi Christie...I hate to paint but I must admit, I'm pretty good at it. It's kind of "zen" and gives me lots of time to think. I'm taking a workshop with Mary Buckham right now on writing a synopsis and she's given me plenty to think about! Arrgh! I'm not the person to ask about plotting a synopsis but I will say I jot down what I think are the plot points and then play the "what if" game and move them around. I find reading the paper about someone's struggle or journey, listening to dialogue on t.v. and listening to my single friends yak about their love life (one who's in MT to meet two different men!) shows gives me inspiration.

Helen said...

Well he is going to have lots of fun here at my place with Jayden Hayley and Jake nothing mindless to do here at my place LOL.

Christie

It is so good that you can find mindless things to do so as you can plot new books for us to read now you have me thinking about mindless things the only thing I can think of at the moment is being in the shower or laying back in a bath other than that there seems to be far too much going on with all of the kids here I hardley have time to read these days :(

Glad you got the painting done and a plot done Whoo Hoo

Have Fun
Helen

Laurie said...

I walk the dog or take a shower. Those are my favorite activities for day dreaming. My mother likes to crochet and my mother-in-law says she thinks best while gardening.

I never thought of painting - my house does need some freshening up!

Barbara Monajem said...

Walking works best, but anything is better than sitting in front of the computer. Doing the dishes, folding laundry, going for a drive, even lying awake in bed... although this is hazardous, because some of the best ideas appear by night and have vanished into the ether by morning... My plots come in fits and starts, not all at once. An idea may *seem* good, but upon reflection (or upon beginning to write), all the issues start to crop up. So it's a frustrating process, step by excruciating step, and yet in the end it all somehow magically comes together.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Christie, what a great job--you got your painting and your plotting done!

I'm always fascinated by how the creative mind works. It seems that while your hands are busy with a mindless task, your mind is free to play, doesn't it? I have very little uninterrupted time that isn't taken up with writing. Even when I'm doing a mundane task, I usually have to feed, clean, discipline and listen to my children in between fits and starts of whatever it is i'm trying to do, so it's not conducive to plotting. My best thinking time is in the shower, but even then, there's usually some child bashing at the door callng Mama! And yes, thanks, I'll have cheese with my whine!

Helen, hope you and the Golden One have fun!

Kim in Hawaii said...

Late again in trying to woo the GR to Hawaii ... because I was watching Celebrity Apprentice.

And there's your inspiration - take 14 "celebrities" trying to raise money for charity and see new personalities, drama, and plotlines to sabotage the other team!

Marisa O'Neill said...

Hi Christie - I think I could come up with a couple of mindless activities to get your mind blank so the creativity can flow.

How about cleaning your oven, or the grout in your bathroom tiles. Better yet, take to washing your windows that haven't been washed since last summer. I know I should agree with everyone and say take a walk; but when I go walking my mind becomes hyper aware. A day scrubbing my kitchen floors or waxing the furniture always gets my creative juices flowing and the bonus of a clean house. Mind you it doesn't happen often - I'd much rather go for a walk.

Caren Crane said...

Helen, congrats on getting the GR away from Christine's next door hen house. I thought he might just stay!

Christie, I think painting rooms is a great way to think! I do need to work on my dining room, if you need inspiration. *g*

For me, walking gives me the mind space to plot sometimes. I often wish I had the knees to run, because I think running would really work. The rhythm and mindless movement. Then again, I would probably be too deep in thought and get hit by a car.

I've heard some people say the shower works for them. I have no idea, since that never works for me, but I like Helen's soaking in the tub idea.

Also, lo-o-ong car trips driving by myself work well. Then again, I just came back from one the other day and...nothing. Can't force inspiration!

Christie Kelley said...

Congrats on nabbing the GR, Helen. He seems to like your place!

Christie Kelley said...

Pinkpeony, thanks your ideas. I like the writing the plot points down and then playing the "what if" game.

Christie Kelley said...

Helen, I have the same problem with too much always going on in my house. Even with the kids in school there is still always something going on. My husband works from home so he's always here. If I want to go for a walk, he wants to come along. So there is very little "me" time.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Laurie, painting works wonders. There's something about the mindless repetition that does it for me. Showers don't work for me because I'm too task oriented. I'm in and out of the shower faster than any of the boys in my house. Baths do work but now that it's getting warmer, I don't take many baths.

Christie Kelley said...

Barbara, you are so right about driving. I love driving the kids to my mom's house in NY. It's takes about 4 hours and they're old enough that they don't need entertaining. I usually get a lot of "brain" work done on my stories that way.

Christie Kelley said...

Christine, it does get easier. I had two young boys once (that's next month's blog, btw). Thankfully, they're not banging on the door when I shower. But I grew up in a house with so many other people that I can't get used to taking long showers, which is crazy because the boys have no problems taking long showers. I need to try that again!

And you're free to whine to me anytime about your kids.

Christie Kelley said...

LOL, Kim. I never watched Celebrity Apprentice. I used to watch the original but quickly became tired of all the backstabbing. It was too much like my job at the time.

Christie Kelley said...

Oh Marissa, you make me laugh. Clean my oven!! That's what self-cleaning ovens are for!

Believe it or not, I already cleaned my windows when I put the screens back up. That does work but I'm still laughing about the oven.

Cleaning grout also made me chuckle. When we rehabbed the house two years ago, we sealed our grout so there's not much to clean there.

Walking works for me but only when I get the chance to go alone, which almost never happens. Another thing that works for me is sitting down by the river. That is so calming for the soul.

Christie Kelley said...

Caren, I've had car trips that should have inspired me and yet I come back with nothing. You're right. Sometimes you just can't force these things.

Kirsten said...

Christie, I am EXACTLY the same with my writing. There's no way I can think of anything creative while staring at the computer. I plot while my body is doing something else. Not yoga, because then I work pretty hard on clearing my mind and focusing on what I'm doing. Running and walking work perfectly for me. I get in really good shape while I'm plotting a new book!

Mindless cleaning tasks (baseboards, anyone?) are also very effective. Gardening works. Really, anything physical that doesn't require mental energy.

I never thought of painting, but that would be perfect! I'll have to try that on the current book I'm plotting!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Morning, Christie! Hey Helen, put that GR to work for you today. Grins.

I had to LOL about the mindless activities and plot creativity. I find ideas everywhere - usually in the news or while I'm sitting in traffic. On plotting, I love the mindless tasks for freeing the brain.

As Kirsten said, walking the dog, exercise (I do skip the yoga and go for some other exercise), garden, clean the house....yeah, boring.

MsHellion said...

Mindless tasks:

Washing dishes
Gardening (plus fresh air!)
Mowing
Vacuuming (this wouldn't last long)
Scrubbing the bathtub
Retiling your kitchen

(And I loathe painting too. *LOL* Too much work. And I pretty much don't like anything I included on this list either, but I admittedly am not a fan of work. *LOL*)

MsHellion said...

Oh, I forgot MY way of getting plot points: DRIVING. Usually taking a long drive to somewhere and thinking about the book helps me discover plot points.

Better than texting, I suppose.

Christie Kelley said...

Kirsten, I can't plot while I'm exercising either. I just got back from my Jazzercise class and my mind is still counting beats. No room for plotting in my brain while I'm trying to keep my focus on what my feet are supposed to be doing.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Fishing anyone? I don't write but when I am fishing I can just let my mind wander and get answers to lots of little problems. As long as I don't fall asleep and tumble out of the boat it is wonderful.

Christie Kelley said...

Jeannie, boring seems to work with plotting so that's a good thing!

Christie Kelley said...

MsHellion, I love washing dishes by hand when I have the time. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen very often. I can stare out my window and let my mind go wild (assuming the TV isn't on).

Christie Kelley said...

Dianna, I love the fishing idea. And with the river just down the street, I don't even need to get on the boat. I can fish off the dock. I am definitely going to try this one!

Janga said...

Driving works for me and listening to music. So does people watching and eavesdropping in the mall or in the park or in a restaurant. An idea struck just this weekend as I sat in a rocker at Cracker Barrel, waiting for my sister and a friend to arrive for our lunch date. I watched a couple in the parking lot say goodbye and head for separate cars and turn back for another goodbye three times. I filled six pages with notes from that scene. Sometimes it pays off to be early. :)

Jinky said...

I always head for the shower when I'm stuck on something. The water is soothing. The cold feels nice (I don't do hot showers...weird, I know). And really, there isn't much to do in the shower but think. As for initial inspiration, it could be as simple as a song or a painting, but most of the really big "aha!" moments have come from having a really bad day. It's true. The next time you have writers' block, grab a notebook and head to the DMV. It'll change your life. ;-)

Margay said...

Walking is definitely a good way to free the creativity, but for me, another way is by knitting. You wouldn't believe the stories I come up with or the plots I work out in my mind when I knit! I don't know what it is about this activity that helps me like this, but I'm not going to question it. I'm just going to keep on plotting...er, knitting...er, both! Plus, if I'm lucky, I not only get a great story out of it, but something nice to wear or give as a gift!
Margay

Christie Kelley said...

Janga, I love what you were able to watch at the Cracker Barrel. That is so touching and definitely would make a nice scene in a book. I do love to watch people but just don't get the chance like I used to.

Christie Kelley said...

Margay, that is awesome. Maybe I should take up knitting!

Virginia said...

Congrat Helen on getting the rooster! Have a good day with him!

Hi Christie, if you need something to paint come my way. I have lots of painting that needs to be done. I plan on doing some but just keep putting it off! I am not a writer so I have not idea on how to plot a story but if painting helps you I have plenty to keep you busy!

Joan said...

Chasing a kitten?

Scenario.....No! Cricket! Stop! You little devil! Awwwww....that's so cute...Ouch! No biting!!! Did that draw blood?

Purring is so sweet...snuggle bunny...chase the mouse...please dear God in Heaven chase the mouse for 2 seconds.

That help?

Christie Kelley said...

Virginia, if I lived close I might consider it. :)

Christie Kelley said...

LOL, Joanie. My cat has been nuts today. I don't know if it's the rainy weather or the fact that she slept most of the weekend but she's racing all over the house. She was trying to antagonize my husband into chasing her but he had to work. Strange cat, she loves to be chased.

Claudia Dain said...

Sweeping. There's something so mindless about sweeping, yet inspiring because things are getting cleaner, cleared off, spruced up and I can watch it happen with each pass of the broom. I always go sweep something when I'm stuck, my brain frozen on hold. Sweeping always works.

Driving a car around is a good method as well, but sweeping is so much cheaper...and you never have to worry about rush hour.

I like to consider all the angles.

Louisa Cornell said...

I think he knows when the babies are coming to your house, Helen, and that is why he travels there! He LOVES those babies!

My occupation of inspiration is driving in my car. I need to invest in one of those little tape recorders because I get some of my best ideas and see some of my best scenes when I am driving.

I always keep notecards in my pocket at work so if something comes to me I can jot it down.

Christie Kelley said...

Great idea, Claudia! I'll try sweeping after the rain stops (if that ever happens!)

Christie Kelley said...

Louisa, I like driving for inspiration too. Usually, I find it takes a long trip to get my mind settled. If it's just the usual jaunts around here I'm thinking about all the other things I need to do.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Congrats on the GR, Helen! I know your grand kiddos will keep him occupied. :-)

Jinky, ROFLOL over your taking a notebook to the DMV to change your life. TOO TOO TRUE!! Can't think of anything worse than the lines at DMV.

Christie, if you would like to plot while painting, you are more than welcome to come to my house for a week or so. ;-)

I've had the best luck with plotting while driving. Usually I'm only driving across town to have lunch with my BFF but inspiration always seems to strike either on the way there or coming home. If I'm stuck on a plot point, I ALWAYS call her for lunch.

AC

Christie Kelley said...

Hi AC, if I'm truly stuck on a plot point I always call a friend of mine, too. Sometimes we meet or we just talk on the phone.

PJ said...

I get my best ideas when I'm baking (which is soothing for me) or in the shower. It's amazing how many terrific ideas spring forth in the shower! lol!

Christie Kelley said...

PJ, baking used to do it for me too. Now that I have an open kitchen/family room, I find that the TV is usually on when I'm baking. I think I might have to make the kids go upstairs to watch while I'm baking from now on.

Donna MacMeans said...

The paint fumes! Love it !

I can sit and try to plot for hours and nothing comes, but put me in an aerobics class and my imagination takes off. I think maybe the critical part of my brain is preoccupied getting my body to do the routine properly that the imaginative side gets free license to roam. Of course, that isn't much consolation to the poor person next to me whom I bump repeatedly because I didn't listen to the instructions. (grin)
I get the same kind of inspiration when in the shower. There's something about water and creativity - especially nice steamy water.

Nancy said...

Helen, have fun with the rooster!

Christie, you are welcome to come here anytime you feel the need for something to paint. We discovered early in our marriage that we could not paint together. So we just don't, even though the dining room could use a touchup.

I plot with a brainstorming group, which leaves me with an overall plot structure and turning points. As for those pesky little details in between, I'm about to try something new, using a storyboard (a gift from Gillian Summers) to map out particular scenes for the rest of my wip. I've used it for revision and found it very helpful, but this will be the first time on its intended purpose.

My mindless thinking activity is Tetris--on the boy's ancient N64, which no ones uses anymore except me.

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, I think Mary Buckham is a brilliant teacher. I took the Break Into Fiction four-day workshop and have done every other workshop she and/or Dianna have given anywhere near me. I always come away with, as you say, "a lot to think about"--a head full of ideas, which I think has to be a good thing.

Good luck with your synopsis. I think everyone here but Jeanne pretty much loathes doing them, but I could be mistaken.

Christie Kelley said...

Donna, I just can't take my mind off the instructor during aerobics. If I did, I'd be all over the place and probably break something (been there, done that!)

I'm really going to have to start taking longer showers.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Nancy, I do plot with one of my critique partners but she lives almost an hour away so we don't get together as much as we used to.

I think I'll pass on the painting for other people. Maybe I need to invest a large piece of wood for my office that I can just paint and repaint.

Christie Kelley said...

Nancy, I know I loathe writing a synopsis. Miserable things to write and read (as I'm doing now for a contest).

Margay said...

Christie, I highly recommend knitting to everyone. It is a wonderful way to relax and exercise one's creativity.
Margay

Christie Kelley said...

Margay, my mind says yes but I have no idea how to knit so I know that means taking a class, which I just don't have time for now. Maybe I'll go back to cross-stitching.

Margay said...

Christie, it's not as hard as you might think - there's even a knitting for dummies book (and an online version, too) that has illustrations in it that are easy to follow. I took it up again about eight years ago after having not done it for years and now, I'm a knitting fool! But cross-stitch is good, too. I think anything creative like that really stimulates the brain for other creative pursuits.
Margay

Christie Kelley said...

Thanks, Margay. I'll look into the knitting books.

Nancy said...

Margay, my mom was a prolific knitter until arthritis in her hands forced her to stop. The blue layette set she made for the boy was one of her last knitting projects. She tried to teach me, and I got the hang of knitting and purling but not of casting on or off.

I used to do needlepoint, just backgrounds, and some cross-stitch but the kind with the pattern stamped on the fabric. I haven't done any actual hand work in years.

Except I did make a knight's tunic and cape for the boy one Halloween when he was little.

PinkPeony said...

Hey Nancy...yes, Mary is a fantastic instructor. I have her book but taking the class has really taught me to dig and clarify. Kirsten..you have me eyeing my baseboards now...I'm sure there's cat hair and dust clinging to them.

Nancy said...

PinkPeony, we always have pet hair around. Always. Herself sheds so prolifically, we're amazed she isn't bald. Even in the winter. It's worse now that the weather is warming. She sheds more all by herself than the two goldens we used to have did as a pair.

We vacuum right before company arrives, then we eat dinner, go sit down in the living room, and it neverfails--there's always a clump or tuft of discarded lab hair under a piece of furniture directly in the guest's line of sight.

Always. *sigh*

PinkPeony said...

Nancy...grins...we have four or five lint rollers with the sticky tape downstairs. The cats aren't allowed on the furniture or upstairs but they have big poufy cat beds. Paxil has taken to sleeping in a cardboard shipping box from Amazon. Now, in addition tons of cat hair (I try brushing them but they run), there's cardboard shreds that need to be sucked up daily. I have a dry Swiffer, an industrial strength dust buster that I fire up twice a day. Chasing furballs doesn't inspire me in the least.

Margay said...

Nancy, casting on/off can be tricky, but there are a lot of great tutorials out there on the 'net. I love it so much, I'm thinking about ways to pass on the joy/gift of knitting to others, especially teens (thinking about writing a book geared toward teens). I just love it so much, I want to share it with everyone!
Margay