Ever have one of those days you are passionately inspired to do…something other than what you currently have to do?

That has been me at work for the past couple days. I am blessed with a job that I like: I am able to grow as I am given new tasks and responsibilities, I can engage in spiritually fulfilling and challenging conversations, and I am surrounded by people I am growing to love.  Yet God has also been blessing me with inspiration for new artistic projects and the passion of new art is burning as I work. Today, I want to talk about this elusive gold mine of creativity: inspiration!

There are many articles written on how to become inspired. As I write this post, WordPress is showing me several other WordPress bloggers who have written on just the subject. I rarely find these “how-to” articles to be of much use, since everyone is inspired by different things. Instead, I wish to show you where I find my muses (figuratively speaking…not the actual Greek goddesses who inspire artists). Perhaps something in this post will inspire you. Perhaps the post will drive you to seek out inspiration. Either way, I hope you find something to light your creative fire.

For me, the muses come and go, seemingly by a will of their own. There are days I sit to write and nothing comes to mind. Some days, I have an early idea that catches my fancy, but after a few sentences, it fizzles out, needing more time to stew.  Other days, a complete play will pop into my head, and I can spend hours writing down what comes to me. While I may have little control over when it comes, I have noticed a few common ways that inspiration can strike.

The first thing that inspires me is often an image that arrives, fully formed, into my head. It can be the opening scene of a play, or a character for a story, or a shot for a film. Like a photograph that I’ve never seen with my eyes, this image captures my imagination and I start building from there.  I begin asking questions about what’s happening in the scene and how I can share the story of this picture with other people. The story may not come to me right away, but if I keep thinking about it, I can usually come up with something that fills in all the blanks.

The next muse that fans the creative fire within me is a short bit of text. An idea that I read can sit in the back of my brain, nagging at me until I explore it fully. I once read that St. Augustine believed original sin was part of the human physiology, which led me to explore the idea of a “sin gene” that we inherited in Eden. This concept turned into a play idea that is currently waiting to be written. These inspirations are exciting because they show me how little is needed to draw out a wealth of creative resources.

Reading stories is another supply of inspiration. As I am brought into the world another author has created, I begin to imagine other stories that could take place in their world. Or other adventures these characters would go on. “What is Puck doing while he isn’t on stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? I wonder what other characters would do in the situations provided by the novel. I pull together stories and characters drawn from twenty-odd years of reading to find out new combinations. I’ve heard it said before that stealing from one source is plagiarism; stealing from two is creative genius!

My final, and perhaps most common source of inspiration is questions that come up in daily conversations. “What would a Christian superhero look like?” “Can we redeem the zombie genre?” “Doesn’t it seem like living today is akin to living in a post-apocalyptic world?” The question will sit with me, and I will often contemplate it over a few days. In the best scenario, a story will surface as I explore the ramifications of the question, and perhaps more importantly, my answer. This has led to many of the stories I’m currently writing/exploring.

I have no answer as to why the muses strike when I have little time to write, but they do. The only thing I can do is write down the thoughts as they come. I often carry a small notepad with me throughout the day to jot down questions, blog ideas, images, etc. I have another journal at home where I write down more fleshed out ideas. This book contains information like potential titles, the scene, themes, characters, and a simple plot, if I have one. After they are written down, I know that I won’t forget the ideas. When I have time to write, I can open one of my notebooks and see which idea will inspire me again.

So, what inspires you? Do the melody or lyrics of a song, or the colours in a painting ignite something inside of you that just wants to create? Does your muse visit you often, or do you need to grasp everything she gives you because you know it will be a while before she returns? How do you find the raw stuff that you mold into wonderful works of art?