Whenever I feel a lack of inspiration, I turn to Ray Bradbury. His book, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity, should be on every aspiring writer's bookshelf because of its energy, enthusiasm and wealth of creative ideas. I have read the essays in this book over and over.
One of my favorite essays in the collection is called "Run Fast, Stand Still, or, The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or, New Ghosts from Old Minds". Near the beginning, Bradbury asks,
What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.
He goes on to explain that as he started writing, he found his own way to be creative:
I began to put down brief notes and descriptions of loves and hates. All during my twentieth and twenty-first years, I circled around summer noons and October midnights, sensing that there somewhere in the bright and dark seasons must be something that was really me.
This evolved as time went on:
But along through those years I began to make lists of titles, to put down long lines of nouns. These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface. I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.
The lists ran something like this:
THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE CRICKETS. THE RAVINE. THE ATTIC. THE BASEMENT. The TRAP-DOOR. THE BABY. THE CROWD. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE FOG HORN. THE SCYTHE. THE CARNIVAL. THE CAROUSEL. THE DWARF. THE MIRROR MAZE. THE SKELETON.
I was beginning to see a pattern in the list, in these words that I had simply flung forth on paper, trusting my subconscious to give bread, as it were, to the birds.
The essay goes on to explain how these lists gave birth to many of his stories and novels, Including "The Thing at the Top of the Stairs", which he finished that week in 1986.
I am going to time myself for about 20 minutes, and list as many nouns as I can. I will think of things I love and hate, and how they drive me, as well as how they might drive my creative writing or visual art in some way. A collage might be a great way to express this, too.
FOR MORE CREATIVE FUEL:
A Conversation with Ray Bradbury
Day at Night: Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer
They Knew What They Wanted
They all kissed the bride.
They all laughed.
They came from beyond space.
They came by night.
They came to a city.
They came to blow up America.
They came to rob Las Vegas.
They dare not love.
They died with their boots on.
They shoot horses, don’t they?
They go boom.
They got me covered.
They flew alone.
They gave him a gun.
They just had to get married.
They live. They loved life.
They live by night.
They drive by night.
They knew Mr. Knight.
They were expendable.
They met in Argentina.
They met in Bombay.
They met in the dark.
They might be giants.
They made me a fugitive.
They made me a criminal.
They only kill their masters.
They shall have music.
They were sisters.
They still call me Bruce.
They won’t believe me.
They won’t forget.
by John Ashbery, from London Review of Books and Vanitas
This poem was created using found movie titles. Found poems can be a strong creative boost, since results are unexpected and thus take on a magic of their own.
I decided to create two found poems with movie titles containing "he" and "she" respectively. It gave me some things to reflect about regarding gender, and also what I want my own representative movie title to be.
MORE CREATIVE FUEL: Read more found poems here at Poets.org. And here are some excellent anthologies:
Found and Lost: Found Poetry and Visual Poetry