Friday, 12 March 2010
One Percent Inspiration: Guest blog by US author Tara L. Masih and book giveaway
We’ve all heard this quote many times (it’s actually a slight misquote from Albert Einstein), that creativity is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. For the most part, this feels like a truism to anyone who struggles to finish a poem, story, play, song, or novel. However, what about that one percent?
A question I’ve been asked a lot lately, since I just came out with a debut collection, is what inspires me as a writer? In other words, where does that one per cent arrive from? I never had to think so closely about the process before. In the past, I just waited or looked for inspiration, not giving much thought as to how it happens.
I’ve become conscious that my main source of inspiration is travel. My father, with a PhD in psychology, often used to tell me and my brother that it was important to put positive, beautiful images into our minds because images never leave us. Once our vision processes a scene or picture, it is stored in our unconscious forever. Our minds are one big filing drawer that stretches to infinity. This is one reason I’ve tried to avoid graphic violence on TV and film; one reason I like to garden, go to art museums, and explore different places and cultures. I don’t shrink from reality or disturbing human situations, but I don’t want to waste space in my cabinet on gratuitous images that can depress, if too much accumulates.
I remember early on spending a summer in London, when I was about six years old. Everything I came into contact with intrigued me — the townhouse garden, the towering foxgloves, the neighbors, the strawberries we ate out of a paper cone, the huge pennies, Big Ben, the countryside, the ballet under the stars, the cliffs and castle ruins where King Arthur supposedly roamed. But nothing intrigued me more than the Queen. I toddled around the garden in my grandmother’s high heels, wearing a crown of ball-fringe pom-poms I had sewn together, and carrying over one arm a handmade pouch I had primitively created — I was pretending to be Her Majesty. Perhaps it was the beginning of my desire to get into other people’s minds, even before I could really read and had any sense of writing or being a writer. I was building a character I didn’t know in my own childish way.
Since then, all the files of color, smells, objects, flora and fauna, weather, architecture, culture, personality, clothing, and food are my ingredients for story making. In the same way that someone turns to a little tin or wooden box of recipes that’s been handed down for generations to build a family meal, I turn to that mental file box to mix and stir and build a story.
The urge to travel fuels my writing, and my desire to write stories about many people and cultures urges me to travel. I hope readers get the feeling they are traveling with my characters as the characters take their own physical and emotional journeys.
Tara L. Masih is editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (2009) and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows: Stories (2010). She has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines (including Confrontation, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Natural Bridge, Red River Review, Night Train, and The Caribbean Writer) and several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction have been published by The Feral Press. Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest and Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and Best of the Web nominations. www.taramasih.com.
Where the Dog Star Never Glows is available at Blackwell UK:
We have one copy of the fantastic Where the Dog Star Never Glows to give away. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is to leave a comment below. We will choose one person at random, so check in with Strictly on Sunday.