I remember driving home from work in late April this year, just as the green of the trees was really getting excited. There’s a street that I would drive west on every night around 730pm and as the days rushed forward to meet the summer, the sunlight would shine through the young leaves on the left side of the road as I came down the hill. Every night, seeing that abrupt beauty, I would feel a moment of inspiration for some setting in a story or poem. Every night, as I approached the next stop light, the crest the next hill would shade me from the sun so that by the time I got home, I would have lost those five wonderful seconds that made me feel.
Now I drive home from a different job every night, down different streets lined with other beautiful trees. This drive is longer – usually about 30 minutes. The traffic is astounding. I’m sure there will be nights in the future when I want to hurry to get home for something, but for the past three weeks, I’ve been in no rush.
The back roads are full of people heading home, but the highways are even worse. (My first day gave me a few mistakes to learn from.) I’m stuck, bumper to bumper, between a hipster with funny sunglasses in a Prius ahead of me and Belieber with a fake tan in a Lexus in the rear-view. My car has gone about 50 feet in two minutes.
It’s September, 530pm in Seattle, sunny, and about 75 degrees out. My windows are down and the radio is off. I’ve got my (brand new, tiny, blue) journal open on my lap and the car is in neutral. Several ideas for my book were born on this drive. Had I not thought to bring something to write in, most of those ideas would have been lost. I guess driving, especially in traffic, is one of my inspiration zones. Walking around Red Square on my old college campus, Western Washington University, was the same way – and sitting in the Union building to people-watch.
I realized while I was in school that if you have a moment when your imagination takes over (or you feel like that moment might happen soon), get something to write with – quickly. That feeling flees all too suddenly, and too often for me, trying to collect your thoughts on that idea later will only lead to despair and time wasted. i.e: “All my ideas are garbage” “I’ll never realize my potential if I only come up with crap” “Other people find inspiration so easily”. These thoughts might be true for a time, but not forever. Not if you know how to get into a mindset of creativity.
When I’m driving home, especially for the first five-ten minutes, I leave the radio off and actively think of one specific item I want to work on for my book. Lately, it’s been brainstorming for the type of currency I want my characters to use: names, shapes, colors, sizes, composition etc. If I let my mind wander, I’ll never really focus on what I want to write. If/when I have an idea, no matter how small or stupid, I write it down.
One of my other favorite inspiration zones is when I’m trying to fall asleep, although most of the time I don’t put anything on paper. Thinking about the world I’m creating for the book relaxes me and gives me endless details to work out. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, an idea will be good enough to stick around till the next morning. When this happens, it usually means it’s good enough to go in the book.
Suggestions for feedback: Do you have any ‘inspiration zones’? What is your favorite thing to focus on while brainstorming?