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.
CREATE: Time yourself for 20 minutes and list as many nouns as you can. Think of things you love and hate, and how they drive you. Keep this list and add to it.
REFLECT: What do the things you love and hate tell you about what drives you in life?
MORE THOUGHT FUEL:
A Conversation with Ray Bradbury
Day at Night: Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer