# of pages written on new project: 8
# of literary mags submitted to: 1
Guess what – I have two fans! Well, if you count my friends and my mom I have more than that, but I’m talking about legitimate fans – people I do not know in my personal life who have written me emails of their own volition, saying they like what I’ve written.
One of these fans sent me an email last night to tell me about her blog, An Ode to the Recovering Romantic, in which she watched 143 movies about love in 143 days. It seems like a great (although insanity-producing) idea, and I’m looking forward to reading her blog in more depth (and perhaps reviewing it here!)
She asked me in her email if I had any tips on finding writing inspiration. Which is a really good question because this is the probably the number one thing that scares me about making writing my career: what if I run out of ideas? What if I wake up one day and have absolutely nothing left to write about?
The other day I happened upon Cafe Irreal, an online journal that publishes “irreal” stories. (Think Kafka or Beckett.) For example, in issue 44, Michael Paul Workman’s story “The Horse Factory” begins with the line “There is a place in Brooklyn where they used to make horses,” and ends with the characters swimming with horse skeletons, pretending to smoke their bones like cigars. Weird. (So naturally I loved it.) And though the story makes little sense, there’s something dark and stirring about the idea of a factory that makes horses and dumps their bones into a river.
So I thought, why don’t I try this? Why don’t I try to write something fantastic and absurd? I didn’t think I’d publish it; I just thought it would be fun. I told myself to sit down and write some weird nonsense. When I was finished, I had one story and two poems, and I felt very proud of them. My boyfriend read them and said, “there’s something really deep here, but I’m not sure what.”
I agreed, and I ended up submitting the story to Cafe Irreal. By letting myself play, something more serious had emerged. And by not worrying about publishing, I’d written something publishable.
Recently my uncle sent me and my mom a reminder about NPR’s three-minute fiction contest. I enter every year, even though I never expect to win. I might have brushed it off this year, since I wasn’t crazy about the topic, but I felt as if my uncle was challenging me, so I sat down and forced myself to write something. It doesn’t have to be good, I thought. It just has to follow the rules. (Which were, in this case, a voice mail message monologue in 600 words or less.) My mom wrote one, too, and we critiqued each other’s work.
I don’t think I wrote the winning entry, but I like what I ended up writing, and maybe I’ll use it for something else in the future.
This morning I was at the gym, listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast about inventor Nikola Tessla. Apparently he arrived in the U.S. with nothing but a few poems and plans for a flying machine in his pocket. The podcast detailed his invention of alternating current, but I was still thinking about a pocket full of poems and plans. What a wonderful description, I thought. It could be a part of a poem, or the beginning of a story.
I never used to be interested in science or history, but in the past few years I’ve been reading more and more about both. And the weird thing is, reading about science inspires me to write poetry. I read A Brief History of Time and wrote a poem about black holes. I read A Short History Nearly Everything and wrote poems about stars and atoms and microbes.
Reading fiction inspires me, too, of course. When I read Tom Perotta’s Little Children, I tried my hand at writing in his style. When I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I considered what memoir I might have hiding inside of me. People say “read what you want to write,” and I think that’s good advice. But truly, just read anything.
For awhile I was forcing myself to write a blog entry every day, and sometimes I felt like I had nothing to write about. I would pick something that had happened that day – even if it was inconsequential, like seeing a chipmunk on the bike trail – and write about it. Often, I was surprised with how much I liked what I ended up writing. I’m so glad that I started this blog because it has proved to me that I can write about nearly anything.
Tomorrow, I will put post a list of “8 Ways to Find Inspiration to Write” as well as a list of Literary Journals that Inspire Your Writing. Until then, read and write and have a wonderful day!