Good Muse Everyone!
It’s the writer’s lot in life. Every now and then we find ourselves stumped. Inspiration just seems to have left the building, and our lives may as well be over. If we can’t come up with a topic for a blog post, how on earth are we going to come up with a great short story idea? Or that article for the magazine query we pitched? Or, worse still, a novel?
Even though this happens more often than I care to admit, I’ve also found a great way to overcome it. I pick up the newspaper. Okay, not the paper version, as I have a paper version aversion. Don’t judge me, but even when I was a kid, I hated getting newspaper ink on my hands. It was a tough call for a kid who lived for the comic strips.
I refuse to write off my day writing-wise until I’ve taken a peek at the day’s news. (I like MSN, but it really doesn’t matter which news site you choose.) First I’ll scroll through the “headlines,” which in this election cycle range from the strange to the absurd. I very rarely click on the sponsored links because, well, they’re sponsored. If one particular headline takes my fancy, I’ll click. Not necessarily because I want to get to the gory details, but because I think life invariably imitates art.
Sure, I’ll read the story, whether it’s about the gruesome murder of a middle-aged accountant by his mousy-haired wife, or the scandalous domestic abuse by some celebrity or other on a partner. But it isn’t the facts I’m searching for. It’s the backstory.
What were events like leading up to the headline? What was the conversation like between the parties involved? Being a writer of fiction, I want to conjure a glimpse of what may have occurred that resulted in a story worthy of a national news report. It’s all conjecture of course; just my imagination at play. And because it’s fiction, I can exaggerate. I can create characters who never necessarily existed in real life, but who, in my story, become essential to moving the story forward. In short, I take ownership.
The headline is no longer a headline, it’s my story. My characters will now do and say what I want them to do and say. I will change the location, the names, the timeline (maybe), and if the mood takes me, the outcome. I’ve taken ownership of the story and, with a disclaimer at the beginning of my work that says “While inspired by true events, any resemblance to a person real or fictional is coincidental,” (can you tell I’m a Law and Order buff? Dun, dun!), I’ve claimed the territory as my own.
It’s a backwards process that has never let me down. My creative gene often gets carried away with rewriting the story for maximum enjoyment, even if it’s only mine! And trust me, it doesn’t only work for fiction. If you want to become a blogger like me, (hey, you’re reading this!), or a flash fiction writer, or a short story writer, or a novelist, or a creative non-fiction writer or a memoirist, or a freelance journalist, just go and surf until you find the spark. Something will entice you, I promise! When you feel that belly-jiggle, you’ll know it. Then let creativity do its thing.
I promise you’ll never get black ink on your fingers. Said she with the OCD!