What first inspired you to write?
I hate questions like this because they make so many assumptions about “inspiration.” But since you ask… Probably a combination of my mother, my father, and the family I grew up in.
This tends not to be the answer people are looking for when they ask this question, so let me explain. Both of my parents told me and my siblings stories and read to us, practically from the time we were born. My earliest memories include my father making up bedtime stories that included references to whatever had happened during the day. One of my earliest memories of my mother is of her reading “Little Women” to the three oldest of us when I was about five, to amuse us during a long train trip from Chicago down to New Orleans. And the family – well, basically, the only rooms in the house that did not have fully loaded bookshelves somewhere in them were the porch and the dining room, and in both cases the only reason they had no bookshelves was that there was no wall space on which to put them; both porch and dining room were surrounded by windows and/or double-doors.
In other words, I grew up with stories, with people who told stories, and with people who read stories. I didn’t need “inspiration” to start telling stories, any more than I needed inspiration to eat dinner every night or breathe. I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. Dad says, even earlier than that.
What inspires you the most in the process of writing?
Having bills to pay. No, really.
Writing fiction for a living is a job. If I worked at McDonald’s, nobody would ask how I got inspired to go in to work every day. It’s expected; it’s what you do when you have a job. Same thing if I worked in corporate advertising or copywriting, both of which demand that the job-holder “get ideas” for new ads or copy. And Visa is not going to accept “I’m sorry I can’t pay you this month; I didn’t have any income because I haven’t been inspired for a while” as an excuse.
And while it is true that some days are more productive than other days, the unproductive ones are generally due mainly to lack of energy (I stayed up too late reading/watching TV/knitting/partying; I didn’t eat right the day before; I haven’t been exercising; I’m stressed out about something), not to lack of inspiration. There are, of course, some writers who have slow days on account of lack of inspiration, but in my experience they tend to a) have a creative process that is very different from mine, and from many, if not most, of the other professional writers I know, and b) be the sort of writer for whom ideas really are the problem. Which is kind of a rare thing among professional, write-for-a-living type writers.
Career writers have been saying this and saying this and saying this, since long before I was born, even. I’m not sure why people are still asking.
Do you write morning pages?
The first three times somebody asked me this, I had no idea what they were talking about. Finally someone explained: “morning pages” are an exercise recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. Basically, you’re supposed to get up a bit earlier and write three full pages of…well, anything: thoughts, descriptions, reactions, “I hate morning pages” 280 times, whatever, as long as you keep your hand moving to “dump” all the stuff that’s on your mind. And you’re supposed to do this every single day.
I am not very big on “supposed to”s.
I did finally read the book. I’d describe it as a twelve-step program for would-be writers, and for me it was absolutely worthless. I’ve met a few writers who’ve told me that they loved the book, that it changed their lives, and that they do morning pages every day, and it vastly improves their creativity. Me…well, I tried the morning pages thing. I lasted a week, and got no writing other than the morning pages done any day during that time. And I was bored.
So the short answer to this question is “No, I don’t do morning pages.” The slightly longer answer is “No, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them if you want.” The medium-long answer is “No; but if you think they’ll help you, go ahead and try them. They might work brilliantly for you, and if they do, you have a useful tool to help your process along. Just don’t be afraid to stop if you’ve given them an honest try and they don’t seem to be working for you…and if they don’t work, remember that you can still be a writer even if you don’t do morning pages. Every tool works for some writers, but not for other writers; if this one works for you, use it; if it doesn’t work for you, nod pleasantly, let it go, and move on to something else.”