Finding Inspiration

Snoopy's Night Idea
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A question writers (and other types of artists) often get is “Where do you find your inspiration?” I honestly get mine from everywhere. My family. My friends. My coworkers. My surroundings. My travels. My experiences. My fears. My doubts. My successes. You get the picture?

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As far as inspiration goes, everything you consume is material. Movies you watch, novels you read, music you hear, conversations you overhear, the human emotions and actions you witness. You can create a story for the situations you encounter.

Why is the man screaming at the store clerk? Well, maybe his father just died, and he’s having trouble dealing with it. Why is the woman crying at the bus stop? Well, maybe she just spent the last of her money on medication and doesn’t have enough money left to pay rent. There are endless possibilities with stories because no two authors will tell stories in the same way.

Good writing practice is to find a headline in a newspaper (printed or online) and retell the story with great details about what happened before or after the story. There are also some books with writing prompts that are helpful to get into the habit of writing every day if you need that kind of discipline. *I am not a writer to writes every day. I only write when I am inspired or have a strict deadline (in the case of writing for my day job at a university). I find that forcing myself to write when I am not inspired causes a headache and a lot of junk that I end up cutting out during the editing process.

Another good way to practice writing is to find a song that you love and write a story or poem to go along with it. How does the song make you feel? Who or what is the song about?

I think about things I’ve read and wonder how the stories could be different. I think about situations my friends have experienced and how their stories could be told in different ways. Many of my stories feature characters who have certain traits I’ve taken from friends, family, or myself. It makes my characters feel real to me, and hopefully to my readers. This is especially true with showing the characters’ flaws. In fiction, flaws make the characters feel real to me. It’s the flaws and human emotion conveyed that make me what to jump into the pages (or through the e-reader screen) to hug the character.

There is inspiration all around you if you look for it or let it find you. I keep a notebook beside my bed in case I get an idea in the middle of the night. So many of my ideas just come to me in my dreams, or while considering the “what ifs” of life as I’m trying to fall asleep after I’ve exhausted myself reading or playing word games on my phone.

For more information on the types of written content I produce, read more: Continue reading

The Life and Times of a Not-Starving, Starving Artist

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Only a certain number of artists are significantly wealthy, and I am definitely not one of them. When I refer to “artists” I mean people who produce art in the visual realm, in music, in performances, and with the written word, of course. My strengths primarily lie in the written word, but I like to dabble in visual art as well. While I’ve sold my words, I have never sold any of my visual art, though I have given projects as gifts. I’ve never offered it for sale. I imagine the results of doing so would be very similar to my venture out into the publishing world—supplemented by my day job.

Sure, I fantasize about writing full-time for myself, but realistically, I know that my current place in life is one of the not-starving, starving artist. My art is my true passion, but my own projects are not earning me a living wage. Actually, they don’t even pay for the expenses to run my business (hobby). I spend income from my day job for living expenses and the minimal expenses I incur as a writer. I am serious about the business, but I finance it as a hobby. I have to.

These expenses include a percentage utilities for my home office where most of the magic happens with my writing, entry fees for writing contests, gift cards or lunches for my lovely beta readers, the cost of books to donate or give away in contests, and any office supplies or book signing supplies I need. The income is royalties, which aren’t much. For example, I make about $3 per book after expenses. When people read one of my books on Kindle Unlimited, I get a very small royalty of less than $1 usually. 

Because I am skilled in visual arts, editing, and graphic design, I don’t have to outsource a lot of services that some indie authors need. I edit my own work with advice from beta readers who read because they’re my friends. The betas who are also writers have me as a beta for their work. And my friends know that I’ll be among the first to come running if they truly need me for something. I have a dear friend who takes my author photos and offers me help on graphic design elements I can’t handle on my own. Without these wonderful people in my life, I couldn’t do what I love at my current level.

While my personal writing may never completely support me financially, it’s feeding my soul. Without it, I would be a shell of a person. I get to use my writing and editing skills at my day job, which I love (most of the time), for which I am paid a living wage to help support my family (and my most-loved activities). I love hearing feedback at work that tells me I’m doing a good job, because I do care about my work, but it’s not the same exhiliration I get when I read a good review of my personal work. The fact that anyone takes the time to write a review because they enjoyed my novel makes my day when I read it. It’s one of the reasons I added to my reading goal last year that I would write reviews for all the books I read. As an author, I know how important those reviews can be.

Here’s a video review of “Caroline’s Lighthouse,” for which the reader rated me at 3 stars. Three stars means that you liked the book, but it wasn’t amazing. I give 3-star ratings often. 

I love reviews that talk about the good and the bad as much as I love reviews that only focus on the good. My books and my styles aren’t for everyone, and I’ll be the first to admit that I went a little overboard with Caroline’s descriptions in the novel. Each book I write makes me a better writer.

Thank you for reading, and please, please, write a review.
-Brandi Easterling Collins