A lot of times when readers or people I know ask me about my job, one of the first things they say is, “How do you come up with the stories?” And once you’ve been writing for a while, that question becomes harder to answer, because stories just kind of come to you. Romance authors are probably the most prolific of any genre writers, and when you write multiple books a year, the process of thinking up stories becomes so engrained in your everyday life, you tend not to think about where the ideas come from.
But even romance writers can hit the dreaded burnout and find themselves one day looking at a blank screen.
Without a story to tell.
That’s scary. And frustrating. And actually panic-inducing to a lot of us. So where the hell do you find inspiration?
Music, paintings, movies, Netflix, flowers, children, animals, mountains, oceans, beaches, ripe raspberries, sour lemons, the twang of a country guitar, the thrum of an electric one, black ink caligraphy on thick creamy cardstock, a white lace wedding gown, a black beaded cocktail dress, pine trees, blue skies, the nightly weather report, a park at the end of your block, riding in an airplane over the Atlantic, walking the streets of Chinatown in the midday sun, the Empire State building, your daughter’s elementary school, a cave on the side of a mountain, a Victorian house on a busy street corner, reading in your genre, reading out of your genre, reading billboards alongside the road, cooking breakfast, baking cupcakes, swatting flies, pulling weeds, listening to Prairie Home Companion, listening to 80’s rap, holding your dying mother’s hand, listening to your baby’s breaths, touching a cold plate glass window, holding a hot baked potato, dogs, cats, office supplies, rainbows, hearses, empty spaces, tight spaces, chaos, order, playing tennis, running a marathon, standing completely still, dancing until you sweat, tearing down a wall, building up a friendship, having freaky sex–okay, I just threw that one in to see if you were paying attention.
Where do we find inspiration? Everywhere. It’s in life, it’s in our world, it’s in us. And if you’re a writer, and you’re stuck, frozen, burned the hell out, then stop. Stop writing. Stop trying to write. Stop beating your head against your proverbial desk…
When you let life take the front seat, your brain can relax and pretty soon it’ll do its thing again–creating stories. Just as the couple who wants to have a baby can’t get pregnant until they stop trying, or the single person who wants to get married won’t find “the one” until they stop dating, inspiration can’t be forced. But that’s okay, because it really is everywhere, and if we give it the space to bloom, it will always be there when we need it.