Lately I’ve been looking for strong nouns and suggestive images.  I recently found one amazing image in a small room at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The exhibit in the nearly hidden room was called, “Bad to the Bone: Prints from the Grip of Death.”  There were many prints showing death in cloaks, holding a large staff, as a skeleton, but then there was the etching below showing death on what I could only call a bicycle.  Cupid was there too.  An odd pairing! 

Check it out here:

It was a great way to get my imagination running off in many directions at once.  By the way, that’s a buffalo chasing death, and his feet are made up of many human hands.  

Inspiration can come from many places, but I do find that both art museums and attending concerts (classical and popular both) inevitably leave me chomping at the bit, full of ideas.  The start-up phrase in an earlier challenge  (“Standing in the kitchen late at night…”) came from the opening act of a John Prine concert.  And if you’ve been lucky enough to hear a good orchestra do Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (with full chorus), it’s incentive galore to try to go spinning off into the universe with your words. 

We’re all looking for inspiration.  Have you found any lately?

17 responses to “Inspiration

  1. Between the snowy weather, job loss and dare I say it….a touch of depression, I’ve hardly ventured out of doors. Rather than walking the halls of the art museum, I’ve been walking the halls of my memory in search of inspiration.
    Music has lent a few good starting lines….You’re so vain. You probably think this story is about you.
    Staying snuggled by the fire after a trip to the used book store has also spawned a scant few ideas. One character encouraged me to write, fight, what blight, now contrite, try with all my might.
    Even my faithful household friends have offered some suggestions. Whether it’s my kitty’s “visitors” who show up as hungry birdies at the feeder or the pompous pup that proudly protects her people: there is a story in there somewhere.
    Ann Linquist too must be added to this list. There have been many days I’ve wanted to write but didn’t know what to pound out of the key board. Like a sculptor wanting to chisel away stone, but I didn’t know what was hidden in the stone.
    This sight, these prompts, all the comments nudged me forward to do something, anything, even if it wasn’t from my own inspiration.
    Encouragement from complete strangers…now that is indeed inspiring.

    • I find this site inspiring too. We share our work here and enjoy the work of others who like to write. The names become those of friends we recognize. It’s fun to post here rather than merely “save.” Some days that “something, anything” you mention turns out to lead to some intriguing thoughts. Yes! Keep the words coming.

  2. “My end is getting dead again,” said Joyce, who was seated next to me in the back of the tour bus.

    Dead ends, I thought. That’s it!

    Joyce was looking at me, obviously expecting a response. I couldn’t think of a thing to say to her because, inside my head, my muse was clanging and banging on the entire array of tympanic and percussion instruments in her vicinity. The muse had so captured my attention that I couldn’t even open my mouth, and the noise she was making drowned out all other thoughts, such as making a courteous reply to Joyce.

    Joyce eventually looked away, probably concerned about my thousand yard stare.

    That’s how I’ll do it, I thought. The Chinese hanging coffins and the Tibetan sky burials: Dead ends. Perfect.

  3. Red Right Returning–it’s a nautical term for returning to the source, keep the red buoy lights on the right. Therein lurks a story.

    Eyelash of Cygnet–fantasy, imagining, dreaming, castles in the air.

  4. Your comment about searching for strong nouns and suggestive images has me cringing. The suggestive image that came immediately to mind was the photo that shamelessly became public of a friend’s husband with a woman who is not his wife. That thoughtless moment became the catalyst to their ensuing divorce. Because these people are close to us, the draining, overpowering emotions of anger mixed with confusion, distrust and grief have taken a broad toll. Without wanting to, my husband and I have each dipped back into our emotional pasts, once again feeling that initial baseball bat to the solar plexus and wrenching sadness of loss. For the past couple of months we’ve often lain awake in bed for hours sharing our thoughts, re-living those original moments of devastation, something we haven’t done in decades.

    As I write mostly memoir, life events are usually my triggers, so I find myself spinning this topic around and around, unable to push it aside. Because peoples’ lives have become so transitory, divorce no longer has the same impact and people don’t want to read about it. It used to be an earth-shattering event. Now it’s simply a bump in the road. People glide in and out of marriages with relative ease using the no fault system, irrespective of whether or not it applies. There are even do-it-yourself guides to inexpensive divorces for those whose arrangements are uncomplicated.

    But for the people being left behind after decades of loyalty and unselfish giving, there is fault; there is deep pain and there is tragedy as their lives become shredded like the limbs of an old tree caught helplessly in the path of a tornado. For them, this is no bump in the road. It’s a deep, dark, bottomless pit that is swallowing them whole.

    As for the strong nouns, those are better left unsaid.

  5. P.S. Just so you don’t all think I’m blabbing personal stuff about other people, the first paragraph is definitely creative writing loosely based on two different circumstances. 🙂

    • I often wonder if inspiration is sourced in passionate feeling. The older I get, the more I value strong feelings as the place that grounds all compelling writing. It may be that one starts off writing about an old boiler, but it is through following the heat of emotion that the true focus and meaning emerges. Thanks for sharing your passions here.

      • Barbara Burris

        Thanks for the encouragement, Ann. And thanks for providing this place for us. As you said above, it’s so much nicer than just hitting ‘save’. Here we get the added luxury of feedback, too. Much appreciated.

  6. I’m sitting here at my laptop after reading the previous submissions. I was about to share the barren flats of my uninspired desolation. Not knowing if I should put blame on fatigue, the boredom that comes from unchanging routines or the winter weather, I lazily leaned back in my chair. I gazed at the gray sky and leafless trees, not expecting a thing. I was simply sorting through my thoughts.
    A flash of vibrant red appeared exactly where my eyes were staring. A male cardinal, surely unaware of his timing, figuratively stepped up to the plate. Effortlessly, he proved to me that by the simple and nearly unconscious act of looking outward in a contemplative moment, my train of thought can be and indeed was altered and miraculously I was gifted with a much needed spark of inspiration. The cardinal I’m referring to is a brighter red than I can honestly say I’ve ever seen. The intensity of it hypnotizes me.
    Now it’s up to ME to do take this gift and do something with it.

  7. What a wonderful moment. The universe shows up and whaps you right in the face! Such a great color against the white, the grey, and the dark browns or winter. Winter in Wisconsin is not for the weak. (And then I think of Gullie up in Alaska!) Perhaps you can jump on that thought train and listen for the rhythm of the rails. Good to hear from you.

  8. I’m sitting at my computer, deeply immersed in museum history and character development for my NaNo novel rewrite, and I’m afraid to venture into anything else because it might stop my momentum on this project. I took Dec and most of Jan off and it took me so long to get back into it, I don’t want to have to start over again. But, boy would I love a break to work on something else. The short writing prompts provided by Ann on this wonderful site and the responses are just the ticket. I learn from all of you, so in a sense, you are my inspiration.

    • I’m with you Linda. I’m working on editing my NaNoWriMo novel too. What a chore!!! I have a friend who’s patiently accepting my writing as I edit it. I e-mail it to her as I go along. Without that motivation I wonder how far I’d be!!! I’m happy to share that I’m at page 137 with a total of 165 pages. The end is in sight if I stand on my tiptoes!

      Best wishes to you as you work your way through your creation!! It’s nice to know we’re both on the same path.

  9. I agree it’s run to have more than one thing going at a time. I don’t know if you remember the post sharing the idea “Poems of the Day” but you might like that idea. You just dash off a very short poem that captures whatever’s on your mind at the moment. It’s not always good, but sometimes it can be surprisingly fresh and strong. Date them and save them. They’re like a little diary. Good luck with your novel! Yes! Keep going!

  10. If I am sensitive to my surroundings as I move through my days.

    If I observe people and events around me.

    If I am in tune with my and others’ emotions as we live our lives.

    Then, when I turn my attention to a writing prompt, a nascent idea, or an empty page, random pieces of all that input unexpectedly connect.


    Sometimes, inspiration is a twinkle.

    Other times, inspiration is a supernova.

    All of the time, inspiration is luminous and energizing.

  11. I get inspired by people with what they say and how. They may say it in conversation or they may say it in written form. I’ve had many an inspiration by listening to a speaker, whether it be a preacher, teacher or my boss in a meeting. A sentence that they said may send me off on a tangent and I won’t hear another word they said. I’ve gotten stacks of sentences that I’ve written down after I’ve heard them, along with the inspiration that they give.

    I’ve also been inspired by a memory of a milestone in my life. Being as old as I am, I have a few milestones, good and bad.

    My wife also inspires me, I married way above me to say the least.

    After all that rambling, I would say the best inspiration comes out of thin air. When I put my fingers to the keyboard with nothing in mind to write about, I let the words flow and let them carry me to wherever we wind up. For example, my latest blog post, “Why I Don’t Write Poetry” is an example of that.

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