July 12, 2015

In The Mind of a Writer: What Inspires me?

It's not everyday that you sit at your computer screen waiting to be inspired, unless you are me, and embarking on your second (and third) novel. Yeah, I have been doing that every single day of this week. I have been sitting and sleeping by my computer waiting for a spark of inspiration, which leads me to my point. Someone asked me recently, what inspires me? Its not the first time I have been asked that question. In fact, I think that is the most popular question that authors are asked. If i had to take a poll over the questions that writers are asked the most, I would probably see that question at the top. Yet, it is inevitable one of the hardest questions to answer.

My stories have always fallen in the shadow of authors like Edgar Allen Poe, or Guy De Maupassant or maybe, Stephan King. They have always been dark, a little twisted and part of the macabre. My stories involve the dark side of humanity or the things not greatly understood. I love the type of stories that leave you questioning about the human psyche. The stories that show a person's digression into madness, or the stories that shows a woman's narrow escape from a immoral deviant. Edgar Poe once said that “the death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world," and although, he was an opium addict and drunkard who married his first cousin, based on his success, I believe that he was on to something. In fact, I used that line to start off one of my poems, but there truly is beauty even in death and darkness and deviance.

The idea that we all harbor some type of ill will or darkness embedded in us that if examined might make us seem questionable, is true and easily explorable. Don't we all have our dirty little secrets? (That like just made me feel inspired, I need to write that down). Don't we all wear a genteel mask over a dark face? Doesn't every human have the ability to do evil? Humanity has one more dark vileness than any other species on this planet;  yet, that very thought process is what leads me to my stories. My love to explore that "what ifs" and the dark hearts that we have. I like to explore those aspects. I love to explore those sinister parts of ourselves.
This sort of writing often makes people look at me strange and leads them to the aforementioned question. What was my inspiration? What could have possibly inspired me to write such morbid tales?

I could lie and tell you I was inspired by a recent scene in the news, or that I was inspired by a dark inner obsession. However, no matter how exiting those ideas would sound, they would be irrefutably wrong. My writings are entirely fictional, and I have written everything from Romance (which will be published in 2016) to fantasy, and finally to Horror. No, I have no deep dark inner obsession for evilness or vile things and neither do I watch the news in hopes of catching a raw story about a bad event. So, what inspires my writings?

Everything. A little of everything. There are times when I am sitting on my front porch and looking across the street at my neighbors. The wind might wind through the trees and get them shivering and suddenly a picture of a woman will creep into my fancy. Maybe she is running naked and afraid tripping along the tall grass as the wind pushes her forward like garbage, or she is swinging from its branches coldly with a rope tied around her neck in a twisted noose with her face contorted in horror, maybe she is playfully climbing its branches with a sword around her waist and tribal markings along her arms trying to reach the pale blue sky above, or maybe she is just a small girl bouncing a bright yellow ball high in the air and watching the wind carry it right up to my foot, while I reach down to pick it up. You see, none of these even transpired, but I can picture a thousand scenes playing out in my minds eye from that one picture of the wind running through the leaves as I sit on my front porch. That's the writer's mind. That is a glimpse of a writer's inspiration.

Sometimes, I can get a scene when I am in the kitchen slicing a watermelon. I can carve the watermelon with a knife and watch its red watery insides spill out on the cutting board or spill along the knife and trickle onto the counter. Then, inspiration will slide up my spine and into my mind with a vision as clear as if I am watching it play out on television. A story will come perch itself on my shoulders and whisper in my ear its tale as loudly as I can bare, and then I am inspired. I am inspires as I pull a seat and begin typing with the sticky juice from the watermelon slices still fresh on my finger tips.

Sometimes, I can look at my dogs and watch them play along my carpet. They bare their teeth and nip at each other, they growl and leap and jump, and inspiration strikes like lightening. My finger arches and reaches for the laptop as another scene to my novel slides into my mind eyes like flip of a switch. Sometimes, it comes while I am sipping my morning coffee. I feel its warmth slide down my throat with the bitter heat and sweetness that it emits, and my character, Imani, will sit beside me and begin talking. She will start telling me her story from her heart, and I just listen and type it up like rain drops. My fingers trailing along the keys with each black word forming like tear drops on a page.

Sometimes, I get images while driving a car. I know as a child I use to look out of the window and imagine a girl running beside my car with a loin cloth, a bow and arrow, and feathers streaming through her frizzed hair. That was the image that led to my Fantasy novel and its main character named Yumiko (it's nowhere near done, but I have promised my brothers to finish it one day. They absolutely love that story). I use to see her dark skin with its tribal markings up her spine and her long braid that starts as a single cornrow interlaced with beads. Her skin is always dark as night and shiny like the night sky. She would wave at me and smile as she jumped over high grass and broken tree trucks trying to keep up with my car. Sometimes, when I drive long distances I can still see her. She perches over cars like they have wings and weaves through traffic like the cars are winged birds,  her beast of burden, carrying her to her destination. She is fierce and free and unafraid. She is my inspiration.
Sometimes, I can look at a picture. Maybe, its a picture of a woman with a far off expression on her face, or a baby grasping the fingers of another child, or maybe its a house sitting isolated surrounded by the jungle and the wild and the woods. Suddenly the pictures will blur like moving parts and come to life. They will be a scene in small space of time that lends itself to a beginning and and ending that is not yet captured. A beginning and an ending that has not yet been placed into words. They become a small piece of inspiration as they give themselves to a story that needs to be told.

Sometimes, I can have a vivid dream, that makes me wake up in the middle of the night panting with a cold sweat. Maybe my baby was taken from my arms or I stumbled upon a body or I was being chased by something unseen. These images can make me open my laptop in the middle of the night and begin typing away. However, my most favorite place to be inspired is the shower. The sound of the water running over my face and hair. The heat and steam rising in a white mist and hiding me behind its moisture always allows my imagination to run wild. It's in the shower that I thought of the ending for The Monsters Within: Heart of Darkness. I was stuck for days, when finally it struck me. It struck me who would have to die and how it had to be done. Then the tears fell from my eyes and mixed with the fumes of the shower and my characters fate was sealed with the tip of a knife.

However, sometimes, I am inspired when going for walks, or hanging with friends. I remember one time while eating out with a good friend from middle and high school. We were discussing the good old days, when she brought up an old memory. It trudged up to the surface carrying all its baggage. How, I almost got married at the tender age of 19, and we laughed about the incident. But, even in the middle of our conversation, as she kept talking on and on about what happened, I drifted off. I stared outside the restaurant window at the cars passing and I saw the young man with his black hair and almond shaped eyes staring back at me. I imagined us engaged and married and played out the "what-if" in my head as surely as it happened. It had struck again. I was inspired, which is the story I am currently writing, The Shade of Devotion. I had our romance embedded before  and drawn out before she could finish her steak.  I looked at her and exclaimed, "that would make an excellent story!" Then, I went home and wrote down the idea hurriedly in case I forgot it. I added it to my computer filled with story starters. So far, I have over 1008 story starters and inspiring ideas to choose from all glaring at me from my computer calling me to finish them. Each story is a bit of inspiration that kept building and building until I had to tell the world.

For a writer, inspiration comes easily. You can find inspiration in another novel. You can find inspiration the monotony of every day situations. You can find inspiration in the simple acting of slicing a cantaloupe on a kitchen counter (that's an actual poem, I wrote). That's the thing about writing and inspiration. A writer is an artist and my computer is my canvas. As easily as I can paint a picture with the stroke of a brush, I can paint a thousand pictures with the pressing of a key. AS an artist, you never run out of inspiration because it is all around us. Everywhere you go, everything you see, in every part of your life. The art of being an author is that you are always inspired. Life is your inspiration, and you can never run out until it is done. Inspiration is all around us, all the time, everywhere. So, be inspired.

Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

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