“We got to roll with the punches, play all of our hunches, make the best of whatever comes your way. Forget that blind ambition, learn to trust your intuition -- plowing straight ahead, come what may.”
-- Jimmy Buffett, Cowboy in the Jungle (song)
“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.
-- Emily Dickinson
“Genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration.”
-- Thomas Edison
I remember my sister telling me a goodnight story about a boy with a lightning scar on his forehead even before Harry Potter was dreamed up. I imagined a world with mobiles that didn’t need actual keys way back when mobile phones (with a satellite antennae the size of a spatula) were larger than the average house telephone. As I sat reading Enid Blyton novels about children having the time of their lives in boarding schools, I wondered why no one thought to write about a school that taught magic. Every time my father missed a turn on his way to take my mother sari shopping, she wished that someone would come up with a device that could warn them about the junction beforehand. This was way before Tomtoms and the like were invented to make our lives easier. After many such premonitions that came true around me, my sister told me that it was possible that ideas swam around the universe and it was our job to grab it. Is that how inspiration works? If you don’t seize the moment, will it just canter off to the next willing recipient?
My inspiration comes from many places: the cause and effect of everyday life, other books, movies, dreams, music and of course sudden, vivid pictures floating around in my head at the most inopportune times (like when I stop at a red light or have curry all over my hands and can’t get to my notebook). Where do these invasive pictures come from? (Please don't bother telling me that I should be worried about my mental health...it's nothing I haven't heard before.)
“…Some people can identify an obstacle and see only the obstacle, while others have an ability to see an obstacle and immediately start devising solutions to overcome it. The skill to be able to see a way to overcome a problem is a great starting point for innovation, and despite the plethora of creative thinking programmes, such as making people pass their colleagues through a rope maze, is still a rare commodity.”—Les Hayman, ‘Where does inspiration come from’, http://leshayman.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/where-does-inspiration-come-from/
So it’s probably a matter of subconsciously coming up against a problem and trying to find a solution to it. Cool. My first novel started out as a diary to help me sort out some issues and it worked, so I can probably agree with this theory. However, people I meet ask me how I dreamed up the world of The Scarlet Omen and I seriously can’t tell them. They look at me as though I’m being a secretive, arrogant know-it-all and that is exactly the opposite of how I feel. Some things just happen; there’s no way to describe it in words (and it’s actually my job to describe things in words, so this is something I’m not proud of!).
Daydreaming is a great way to let the ideas flow (don’t do it in school, please, or I’ll have to answer some educational hate mail soon and I’m a little scared of teachers). The problem is: how do you know if an idea is truly original or if it’s just something that you’ve heard of before? Google, my dears. There’s nothing Google can’t tell you! However, there will always be someone else who thought of those sexy pumps that double up as practical sneakers first. It doesn’t really matter—as long as you have an original voice telling the story. And once the tale starts flowing, it becomes yours and no one can take that away from you.