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Are You a Writer Looking for Inspiration?
No Subject Is Taboo
"Musings" for February 2006

by Margot Finke

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What happens when you long to write, but can't settle on a subject, a plot, or a good idea? It might pay to reflect on a period from your past, the immediate present, or imagine the future. Writing inspiration can pop up in unexpected places: in the giggling antics of a three year old, the death of a loved grandparent, or the weird antics of your dingbat neighbors. It can also lurk in a remembrance of past hurts, or a happy memory from younger days. Past, present, and future: read on to discover that all three hold books waiting to be written

Inspiration from the Past:
Bring Back Those Happier Days

Do you have clear memories of events in times past, involving you, your family, friends or strangers? Look on these memories as your private goldmine. The bully at school, the candy store on the corner, the neat old uncle with whiskers all over his face, who told the most exciting stories – these memories are nuggets of gold, waiting for you to dig them out and transform them into fabulous stories. Change their names. Maybe make that uncle into an Auntie with red hair. Who's to know where they came from? All that matters to an editor, is that your book features a wonderful Auntie character who tells exciting stories.

Inspiration from the Past:
Angst and Sadness Drive Great Plots

Are your memories of the past less than happy? Bringing that grim time into clear focus, as a moving story, can be cathartic: and help others cope. If you're worried about being sued, it doesn't have to be autobiographical. Take liberties. Change times, dates, and names. Use the well of pain and insecurity that still lives inside you. Paint memorable word pictures. Putting the essence of that grim time into your story can work wonders on an editor, as well as heal your bruised psyche.

History as Inspiration

If you love doing research, and reading nonfiction books, the past is your home. Choose a figure from history, large or minor, and get going. Accurate research is the name of this game. You can make reading about famous people, or events from history, fascinating. Kids learn when a writer makes history come alive.

Present Tense Inspires

The present is an open book: happy, sad, decisive, or full of indecision. First, look close to home. If your family and friends are dull as dirt, look further a-field for that inspirational spark. A few promising subjects are:

Inspiration and the Keen Observer

If you are a keen observer of life, walking down the street, studying shoppers in a department store, or watching CNN's parade of world disasters is a sure inspiration trigger. Reading a newspaper can also work. Look to your own pets and those of others. Kids love animal stories – be they sentimental and loving or wild and wacky.

An Inspirational Future Beckons

Do you love technology and outer space? Do you yearn to be around when they find a cure for cancer, and life on another planet? Maybe inspiration will perk up if you delve into fantasy scenarios, or colonies on Mars. Look at the dullest kid you know: a real ordinary Joe. Now, give him a secret fantasy life that would make his mother go gray overnight. If you are good at thinking out-of-the-box, you'll be a shoe-in at fantasy. If outer space and talking robots isn't your thing, think about something wild and improbable that you wanted to happen when you were a kid. Then, write a terrific fantasy story about it actually happening. Fantasy puts your wildest imaginings on paper. Go for it!

I hope I have presented ideas that inspire some terrific children's books? If not, don't crouch over your keyboard staring at a blank screen. Inspiration comes with being involved. Go out-and-about. Interact with your friends, relatives and neighbors.

If inspiration does not knock on your door, march out and drag it home with you.


Margot Finke's biography and index to Musings.

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