March 4, 2012
Through the Looking Glass
There are writers feel story and character ideas are fed to them from “somewhere else”, a parallel universe perhaps, where these characters and stories truly exist.
My no. 1 flat in Budapest – photo Nannette Vinson
Clearly, that “somewhere else” is a very vague concept and means different things to different scribes. Nonetheless, writers who hold such beliefs say it is very important to allow your mind to be open to receiving these ideas – wherever they come from.
Personally, I’ve had moments when I felt plugged into a conduit, receiving stories, characters and ideas- though I hesitate to say if this was a spiritual event or just the way the brain works in creative mode.
And it is a rare enough event – I can never conjure ‘the writing rapture’ but if I write often it’ll roll around every now and again. And when it does, it’s a magical moment when stories and characters come swimming to me, all done-up, pre-packaged and ready to go.
All we can do is sit down to write every day- most days you’ll get coal but if you keep at it, the diamond muse will show up sooner or later.
From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022.
Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer.
Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series.
Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
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March 4th, 2012 at 19:06
Hi Sue, great post. I’ve had this experience many times while writing, the feeling that characters, actions, dialog are coming to me effortless, as if I am channeling them. Also, I’ve often dreamed scenes for stories I’m writing, or even seen the already written page, and when I wake up, I recall all the words, and write them down verbatim. As you say, either it’s a gift from “out there”, or it’s how the creative mind works.
March 4th, 2012 at 19:43
I walk around during the day next to my “characters.” I can sometimes see how they would deal with situations…and it sparks ideas and real life scenarios. I can channel those when I get a chance to sit down at the end of the day.
March 5th, 2012 at 01:30
I never question where the inspiration comes from. I just scribble it down when it comes and be thankful for its arrival. 🙂
March 5th, 2012 at 01:32
Sue, I’ve had this same experiece as well. Once, I wrote an entire short story as if the character was dictating it to me – telling me the story from her perspective.
I believe in letting the universe talk to us. If it wants to tell me stories; I will listen.
March 5th, 2012 at 03:05
I know what you mean – it’s very hard to explain that ‘somewhere else’ concept, but I always welcome it when I go there and find everything comes so easily and naturally (and as you say, pre-packaged). It’s like a divine intervention!
March 5th, 2012 at 05:52
In Richard Matheson’s book “What Dreams May Come”, some people in the afterlife work as our muse. They create things for artists, scientists and others and funnel it back to us.
I loved the idea of it and I wonder if that’s how it works. Had to share that. Great post.
March 5th, 2012 at 14:34
My best stories flow with little effort… until editing begins. But the core structure is there, pristine and complete. Love it when that happens, but there is always work involved. Rather than crediting to a muse, I think of those times as seizing the moment when a fresh idea, seasoned from my experiences, comes to a boil.
March 5th, 2012 at 14:35
I have always liked Ray Bradbury’s introduction to his television show where the camera pans around a knick-knack filled office and Ray’s narration says that for inspiration he just looks around the room. I tend to follow that thought and surround myself with music, sci-fi / fantasy books, movies, memorabilia and other things that inspire me. From that pool of influences I find my characters and stories. I cannot discount external sources though, because to be frank (and I apologize for it) a lot of good ideas happen in the shower where there is only soap and water.
March 5th, 2012 at 19:06
Jean Kerr is a muse for me. She was a humorist in the 50s and 60s and if I read a couple of her silly essays I feel replenished.
March 6th, 2012 at 03:41
I have little control over it: it comes when, where & how it wants… and I’m grateful. I also like BB Baker’s comment about muses from the afterlife. I’m not sure who my writing muse/s is/are, but when I cook my kitchen is crowded with cooking muses from the afterlife, and I know who they are!
March 6th, 2012 at 19:44
Jean Kerr was funny as heck. I assistant-directed a play by her some years back (wanted the supporting male role, but no such luck).
I often (almost always) feel like my unconscious knows the story before I figure it out. Chipping it out is never a smooth process though.
March 7th, 2012 at 22:17
Very good, Sue and very true. I used to wait for inspiration…lots of procrastination when it didn’t seem to come…now I realize to keep writing. Kind of like a panhandler sifting through the mud for gold.
Thanks for sharing! Diane
March 8th, 2012 at 17:42
It would be simplest if we could all sit down and just channel Heinlein or Asimov, wouldn’t it!
March 8th, 2012 at 20:58
I subscribe. It’s not a hunt but an alert wait.
April 21st, 2013 at 14:35
I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming
having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks