Tag Archives: inspiration

Getting down with downloads

In my recent interview with author/artist Uvi Poznansky (see below), we talked about my writing habits.  I mentioned how, when writing fiction, I receive what I call “downloads” from the universe.  These moments of inspiration often arrive whole, and I’m given an entire scene in my mind, complete with plot, setting and dialogue, all at once as I’m working at the keyboard.  I received several of them as I wrote my latest novel, The 26th Game.

The compelling facet of these downloads, other than their arriving in totality, is that they are most often scenes of which I had no prior thoughts.  Not even an inkling.  As I work my way through a piece of fiction, many of the scenes have been planned ahead of time.  I’ve made notes on setting, scribbled snippets of dialogue, developed plot points, usually in longhand in a small notebook or on a legal pad.  But as I stir these into a readable stew, invariably, ideas that had never crossed my mind appear in the work.  This occurs in real time, as if I am merely recording them from wherever they’d already been written, out there in the ether.  I have composed numerous sentences, paragraphs and scenes, word for word, out of thin air, without ever having previously contemplated the particular idea.

How is this possible?  Some metaphysicians have said that all books are already written, and the author becomes connected to the place where these works are “stored,” at some kind of “celestial archive.”  The author merely transcribes the text, acting as a conduit from the archive to the paper or Word document.  Since I know this process happens, having experienced it countless times, for me this explanation is as good as any.  Because I truly don’t know how it works.  I only know that it is real.

The late Robert James Waller told me he wrote The Bridges of Madison County in ten days.  He was quoted as saying, “The universe just gave it to me.”  While Bob might have used different words to explain the source of his fiction, I am certain he was describing the same download process as I have.  No doubt, many other authors can attest to having experienced this spontaneous creativity.  It is part of the beautiful mystery of creation, and every author owes a debt of gratitude to the Muse, Celestial Archive, Source, Universe, or whatever name he or she chooses to call it.

From Music to Words

As a writer of fiction, I am inspired by numerous things.  One of my foremost sources is music, and specifically, movie soundtracks.  Countless times I have donned headphones and immersed myself in movie music from my extensive collection of soundtracks.  YouTube works too.  The scores never fail to create pictures in my mind: settings for stories, images of scenes, even dialogue between characters, whether for short stories or novels.  This makes sense, as movie scores are written to accompany moving visual images.  And of course, the scores do more.  They instill nuance and emotion, mood and depth, energy and passion, to the movies/stories they support.  A movie without music becomes little more than a slide show.

Among the titles in my collection of soundtracks are numerous scores to movies I’ve never seen.  This might seem strange, but if a soundtrack comes from one of my favorite composers of movie music, then there is a high likelihood that it will appeal to me (inspire me) even without having seen the flick.  As well, since I use the scores as inspiration for writing fiction, my subconscious forces of creativity are free to assign any images to a piece of music as I listen, images which can be, and are often, unrelated to those which the score was originally written.  Such is the beauty and versatility of movie music.

I have a long list of movie music maestros that I enjoy, but my favorites are John Barry (Out of Africa, Dances With Wolves), Jerry Goldsmith (Star Trek, The Blue Max), Hans Zimmer (The DaVinci Code, Inception), James Horner (Field of Dreams, Titanic), and John Williams (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars).  Each of these composers has a long list of film credits on their resume, more than I could include within a reasonably short blog post.  As well, there are other likes: Ennio Morricone, Tangerine Dream, Elmer Bernstein, Alan Silvestri, Basil Poledouris . . . well, this list could go on for some time.  I like to acquire albums of collected movie theme songs too, as these tracks will have a distilled and powerful emotional impact providing a great musical listening experience as well as inspiration for fiction. 

I began my collection of soundtracks with vinyl LPs (making a comeback these days), and it has grown through cassettes, and into CDs.  It’s an eclectic mix, but I lean toward sweeping emotional scores with powerful and dramatic themes.  For me, this kind of music offers a quick translation into images for the page.  Instrumental music from artists such as Yanni also does this, as long as there are no words.  No words!  My inspirational music for fiction can’t contain vocals because the words direct the listener to a specific image, and only in rare cases does this apply to what I’m writing.  I listen to music with vocals for all the usual reasons and I have my preferences there too.  

It’s an inherent paradox: music without words, to create words on the page.