A few of the stories I’ve written, or drafted, were inspired by things I read elsewhere. For example, there’s a song by Black Sabbath titled “Neon Knights“, which I turned into a short story about, well, neon knights. It’s only made it to the first-draft phase, but it has potential as an interesting fantasy/sci-fi mash up.
That wasn’t the first or only time that happened. There have been other song titles and lyrics that have sparked an idea, as well as book titles, chapter titles, and even a sentence or phrase from something else I’ve read. There’s something about these little combinations of words, once read or heard, that ignites a creative fire in my imagination.
But then, I always feel guilty about it. For some reason, it makes me feel like I’m stealing something from the original artist. I know, silly, right? In fact, I’d be flattered if I found out that someone created something after being inspired by something that I created. That has to be the highest compliment an artist can receive.
The problem I run into is that I find these little embers of inspiration everywhere. I see them in the stories I read, the music I hear, the world around me. I see a red-tailed hawk perched on a high branch in my back yard and wonder about him. What does he see from up there? What is he thinking? What has he experienced? All that begins to form a story in my mind.
I even find inspiration simply sitting at a stoplight. I look at the people sitting in the cars around me, watch them briefly (so they don’t get freaked out), and wonder about their lives. Where are they going? Where are they coming from? Why does that woman look sad? Why is that little boy bouncing around in the backseat like a billy goat?
Occasionally, these spontaneous ideas are worth writing down so I remember them later. Most, however, are just exercises in creativity. Mental improv. A way to pass the time while stuck in traffic on a hot August afternoon.
The downside is that I have a ridiculous number of ideas scattered about on various notepads, envelopes, and scraps of paper. One of these days (ha!) I’ll have to try and organize them. Or at least put them all in the same place. More than likely, I’ll continue to jot them down and stick them in a drawer on in my jacket pocket so I can discover them again someday and be inspired to write something.