Today I am going to talk about an incredible phenomena that is intensely sought after, not only by writers or musicians or sculptors but by anyone that may find a little bit of creativity floating through their bloodstream. Whether it’s a school teacher looking to find an interesting way to tackle a lesson plan or a boss attempting to find a useful way of motivating their staff – there’s a unseen elixir that helps aid these problems and many more.
That elixir is known as inspiration.
For some, it may strike in the middle of the night, for others they may have a particular ritual or routine that allows them to tap into the source and reap the rewards. No-one can really explain the magical machinations of inspiration yet it’s something that ignites the spark in our lives.
For me, inspiration has been a something of a journey. As a child, it was boundless. Everything provided inspiration. The sound of the rain as it trickled down the window pane, a large tree that looked like a giant’s gnarled skeleton or an overheard conversation between two people in the street.
It also helped that I had an overactive imagination.
I should probably rephrase that entirely; my imagination was troublesome. During the day, I would drift in and out of wild scenarios; white water rafting under waterfalls that reached up to the clouds, escaping ravenous vultures intent on making me their lunch or jumping over pits of lava while the earth around me disintegrated into nothing. It may explain my lack of friends as a child – I was too wrapped up in all of these magical adventures that any real relationships became more like the fiction I consumed when I wasn’t lost in a day-dream. The cycle of imagination and inspiration continued throughout my childhood and here’s where it gets a little more troublesome. During the day, these crazy escapades were harmless, I explored them in my mind and I could switch them off whenever I needed to. At night however, my mind transformed into a haunted house. I recall laying in bed with the light freshly switched off, the darkness heavy like a blanket, though I would find that it was this very darkness that inspired some of the horrors that I write about to this very day. yet for as long as I could remember, whenever the light was switched off, I would see the silhouette of a man stood in the corner of my bedroom. However, he would vanish with no remnants whenever the light switch was flicked back on again. I can remember the paralysing fear of staring at the shadow throughout the night, terrified that if I took my eyes off it for even a split second that it would begin to approach me. With the blanket pulled over the lower part of my face, I would try to wish it away but the more I glared at it, the more I could begin to make out its ghastly features. A macabre smile stretched over his grotesquely pale face, his limbs spindly and elastic – his demeanour wholly sinister. That fear still resides with me to this day and though at the time it felt like one of the most horrifying experiences, that memory acts as inspiration for many of the stories I seek to write.
It wasn’t too long after that I began to write down these experiences, in fact one of my first stories was titled ‘The Nightmare Man.’ I typed it up on an old typewriter that once belonged to my grandmother and I illustrated the front page with pencil crayons and markers. I drew a man with a macabre smile etched on his face and long, spindly arms reaching out towards the reader. I wish I still had that story to look back on as I cannot remember any of the plot. However, it was that nightmarish experience and many more that fuelled my desire to write stories. As I began to tell the tales, I found a certain joy in not only attempting to scare others but in trying to scare myself. As the stories were given life, the shadow men and the monsters in the wardrobe soon vanished leaving me with only their memories to draw inspiration from.
As I got older, I seemed to forget that I had those memories and as life would teach me, if I didn’t dig a little, then I wouldn’t find any treasure. Stories came and went and I spent a large part of my twenties with the stories as dry as a stone. Anything I wrote was either deleted or scrapped and any hopes of having anyone know of the existence of these stories became nothing more than a fallacy.
And then after a memory of a debilitating experience with sleep paralysis which occurred in my teens came back to me, the floodgates were opened. I remembered the shadow man and those long nights ensuring that he stayed in my line of sight. I remembered the faces that resided in the curtains that would shift and change throughout the course of the evening or the shuffling of footsteps as something began to creep up the stairs. Those memories and experiences all came back, fresh and terrifying and I realised I had found the key to a door that I had kept locked tight for so many years. A door to a room filled to the ceiling with inspiration.
So, whenever anyone asks where I get my inspiration from, I tell them this story, and though my imagination is limitless, it’s less vivid as it was as a child. We forget the power of our childhoods and the potential that can be unlocked with just a little nurture.