Inspiration is simple, really.
Look around. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you think? Can none of these things inspire you?
I admit, I’ve gone on “inspirational research” trips, like when I spent the day at Rockwood Necropolis, starting with an image and a word, and subsequently wrote the forthcoming novella Necropolis. Yes, I sought inspiration. But the truth is, that inspiration had already infected me. (Yes, infected; inspiration can be that way.) I didn’t go there because I didn’t have an idea; I went there to more fully explore an idea I’d already had.
The idea wasn’t born in a cemetery. Not entirely.
It was a combination of things, actually. I had already taken a picture at a cemetery, one I had stumbled across whilst walking, where I had taken a whole bunch of photographs not really expecting anything to come of them. Reviewing those pictures, I found one I particularly liked, with the perfect degree of silhouette, with that raven (alright, probably a crow) perched atop the tombstone. And I thought, “Ah, this is a perfect cover.”
(For the record, it is the cover of Necropolis.)
Later, over a year later, whilst reading an as-yet-unpublished manuscript by a friend of mine (it has since been published, and maybe you’ve read it), he used the word necropolis. He used it only once. Yes, his story was set in a cemetery, but the story itself didn’t lend that previous photograph the added depth I needed to develop a story. It was the word.
A quick Internet search, and I discovered there was, indeed, a necropolis nearby. Not merely a cemetery. I took a day off from work, boarded a train to a destination I’d never seen, and went a-visiting.
I wanted the huge old Catholic section of the cemetery, and the even larger old Anglican, as well as the more recent Anglican and Catholic, and also the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox and an Asian section, the walls for ashes, Jewish and Muslim sections, even a Quaker section (the least decorative of all the graves). I saw mausoleums and trenches and graves that were so old they’d been overgrown. I got lost within this city of the dead, it was so vast.
And though I called it an inspirational research trip, I’d already been inspired.
Because inspiration isn’t something you need to look for. You don’t have to go out searching, hoping to stumble across the very thing you need. No, it’s right there, present, all around you already. All you have to do is keep your eyes open, and your ears. See. Listen. Understand. Accept. Believe. Most important, be open to it. Because it may be a painting you see in a museum, or it may be a text message you receive from a friend. It may be a cloud, or the tilt of a blade of grass. It may be the smile on a child’s face, or the frown, or the crinkle of their eyes as they puzzle over something. It may be the sound of a car, the feel of a baseball bat, the slope of the roof of an old house around the corner. It might just as easily be the sound of feet on the stairs, the feel of sand between your toes, the smell of jasmine in the early evening, the feel of freshly starched shirts.
Inspiration can take any form, at any time. Sure, sometimes you go out seeking it, or hoping to find it. But you really don’t need to.