Discovering writing inspiration is not easy. Most days I stare at my computer hoping that something comes to mind and BAM! I’m filled with writing ideas. That’s rarely the case and yet that’s typically how most of us write. We expect writing inspiration to appear out of thin air, envelop us in its glory, and take us on an amazing imagination-filled ride. Certainly, that can happen, but nine times out of ten, I’ve found that I have to actively search for writing inspiration. Thankfully, I just had a unique opportunity.
This last week was difficult and fun. Starting on Wednesday, I traveled with my husband to NYC for an extended weekend. He was going for business and I was tagging along—one of the best parts of being a Freelance Writer. This travel presented some great opportunities and some challenges I never expected. Here are five things I learned about writing inspiration from my trip.
1. Travel can make things more difficult and not easier.
I had many grandiose ideas about working from Manhattan for two days. I was going to write from Central Park and allow the ambiance of the city to drive my creativity. The New York Library was also on my visit list and I was going to sit inside of its quiet and creativity-filled sanctuary and create beautiful words. Instead, I ended up sitting in a hotel room and trying to punch out as much work as possible with an 11-inch laptop compared to my usual 27-in Mac. Truthfully, I was far less productive and I had no time to find a source for my writing inspiration. This Monday, I actually have a lot of work to make up because my short trip put me so far behind.
2. Thought provoking tours are great for writing inspiration and reflection.
This was my third trip to Manhattan, but my very first trip visiting the 9/11 memorial. It was an incredibly powerful and humbling experience. I was blown away by not only the effort that the memorial creators put into creating the stunning tribute, but the amount of information, history, video, audio, and stories they had gathered. It’s impossible to describe the impact of the memorial. I shed a few tears and for the two days after our visit, my husband and I have talked about it. The memorial was amazing for generating writing inspiration. While my stories are set in fantasy or urban fantasy settings, the ambiance of the memorial and the reminder of the heroic acts of so many individuals in the midst of such horror, made me realize that my heroine needs the same type of opportunity to shine. While my fake heroine will never match the depth of sacrifice, humanity, and fortitude that the NYC firefighters, cops, Port Authority, and everyday heroes showed, we can all learn from them.
3. Leave yourself open to adventure.
One thing that my husband and I always do when we travel is randomly explore. Sure, we’ll look at maps and try to make plans, but then after we plan, we’ll just start walking. The evening after the 9/11 Memorial, we decided to walk back toward our hotel in Midtown. It was going to be a long walk, but we wanted to see what we could of the city. Without any set plan, we ran into Chinatown, Little Italy, the Ghostbuster’s Firehouse, Castle’s Loft, New York University, and Washington Square Park. It was a blast and honestly, a wonderful reminder that set paths aren’t always the best.
In our writing, we can get so focused on the outline and the plan that we forget to allow for the journey. If we had hopped onto the Subway like the GPS said, we would have missed seeing so much of NYC and feeling the heartbeat of such an amazing city on a Saturday night. This meandering also provided a huge dose of writing inspiration. I got to see the outside loft inspiration for one of my favorite TV shows. I had a chance to enjoy the loud and exciting atmosphere that is Little Italy. Throughout the entire walk, I had the opportunity to view different worlds and see how those worlds fit within my writing.
4. Reality does not match up with fantasy.
A good dose of reality is surprisingly good for your writing. Whenever a TV show or movie shows Manhattan, it’s clean, fairly empty, and I’ve never seen construction. In reality, all of Manhattan seems to be under construction. It’s almost impossible to walk down a street without a building, street, or sidewalk undergoing some type of improvement. This is a fabulous reminder that your stories don’t have to show or talk about all the nitty-gritty details. It’s enough to give the best parts, the things that everyone wants to see, and to leave out the unnecessary pieces that would distract from the story. For example, there’s nothing more distracting that reading that someone is peeing. You can say they use the restroom, but there’s no need to go through all the motions. At the same time, this juxtaposition of fantasy and reality also reminded me how important it is to add a healthy dose of realism. The real world is as interesting as the fantasy world and it should get its own recognition.
5. Seeing new things is essential to writing inspiration.
At the end of the trip, no matter that I barely got any writing done, it was important to explore a world different from my own. Manhattan is filled to the brim with hundreds of thousands of unique individuals. From vacationers to New Yorkers to business executives, NYC has it all and that level of diversity presents all sorts of writing inspiration fodder. Coming back, I have so many ideas swirling in my head about different characters, city streets, and situations for my story. Now, I just have to put it all down on paper before it’s gone.