As Part of the 2010 Coffee House Fiction Anthology
The short stories in 2010 Coffee House Fiction Anthology are the winners of The Fifteenth Dame Lisbett Throckmorton Fiction Writing Contest.
Dennis is writing about Finding Inspiration..
Sometimes we writers sit down to a blank page or screen and it freaks us out. Even the best writers have dry spells, to be sure, and everyone has different techniques to break out of the slump. I’m going to share the many ways in which I find inspiration.
Photographs – They really are worth a thousand words. I collect vintage photographs just for this reason; it’s nice to have a whole giant box of old photos from which to draw inspiration. I reach in, feel around a little and pull one out. I spend a little time really looking at it, analyzing it, and then I jot down notes about it and paper clip it to them. And if nothing comes to mind, I drop it back in and fish out another.
But then, old photographs aren’t for everyone. I’m really into vintage items and the past, so these work for me. There are so many other places to find photos, for instance, a little place called the Internet? Spend some time on Flickr, check out your friends’ Facebook pages, find a few photographers whose work you enjoy and follow them. Or check out some photography blogs on Blogspot or Wordpress, which can always lead to my next inspiration.
Collaborating – Make new friends! I spend so much time on Wordpress it would frighten some people. I love reading posts and checking out new photographs, and when I find an artist whose work really speaks to me, I tell them so! A comment such as, “Love your work, we should collaborate sometime!” could really open new avenues for your inspiration. I especially enjoy sending a photographer my story and seeing what photographs it inspires in them. It even pushes me to go outside of my comfort level and write about topics I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, such as working with Danish artist Christina Molholm on our monster collaborations (which can be seen on my blog). I never pictured myself writing about a monster that lives in your mouth creating cavities but working with others opens up a writer to new ideas.
Of course collaborating works the other way as well. I enjoy finding the story in someone else’s art and writing about it. Many of my photographer friends on Facebook often open an email from me asking (or begging) that they let me use a photo they’ve taken. And of course, when they agree, I link the photograph to their blog or Flickr account and pay it forward so they get new visitors through my blog.
People-Watching – Get out of the house! I have always found that people watching is an excellent way to come up with new stories. A simple gesture, an article of clothing, a snippet of conversation or even a crazy action by a stranger can lead to all kinds of interesting characters and plots in your work. My collection in The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton Anthology was inspired by people-watching in random coffee shops in the Philadelphia area. Just remember, there is a fine line between people-watching and stalking, don’t follow them home!
Keep an Inspiration Book – Cheesy? Sure, but it also works. A few of my professors in grad school made us keep some sort of journal to collect anything that might inspire a story. While this doesn’t always work for me, I know plenty of people who have had a lot of success with inspiration books. Mine holds sentences I would love to use someday, photographs, work from my favorite artists, song lyrics, there really aren’t any rules to it. Just buy a book and start gluing/taping/licking and sticking anything you find inspirational into it. Then when you hit a wall in your writing, whip it out and look through it. You never know!
The number one rule of discovering inspiration is that there is no right or wrong way of finding it. Everyone becomes inspired via different avenues. So try these out if you like, but at the same time, help me add to my list: How do YOU find inspiration?
Dennis Finocchiaro is new to the world of published writing, and he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. He finds inspiration in the everyday and the mundane, as well as in the beautiful and the tragic, especially if one rubs elbows with the other. In addition to flash fiction he has just finished his first novel, The Illiterates, and is searching for an agent and publisher. His online blog can be found at Den Writes