20 unlikely places to find inspiration: Part III


Don’t forget to check out Part I and Part II for more weird and wonderful places to find inspiration!

11. Your bed.
I get some of my best ideas when I’m about to fall asleep, last thing at night… sometimes whole stanzas just arrive, fully formed; other times I hit on that pesky title I’ve been wracking my brains for. I know other people who claim that they dream in poetry, and wake up in the morning desperate for a pen to get down the events of their dreams before they fade. Regardless of whether you’ve noticed this happening to you or not, it’s always a good idea to have a notebook by the bed. Don’t go thinking you’ll remember that late-night, half-asleep stanza… you won’t, so get it scribbled down! And even if you never get any sleepy flashes of genius, bed is always a good place to write… it’s quiet and it’s comfy!

12. TV Commercials.
There was a recent British TV ad for toothpaste which advised parents to make sure their children took care of their teeth because they had a long life ahead of them. The narrator of the ad went on to list all the things your mouth does as you grow up - drinking, laughing, whispering, teaching, etc. I thought this was a really cool idea - it didn’t make me buy the toothpaste, but it did make me write a poem about how amazing mouths are. Just about everyone watches TV, and ads are everywhere… so next time you switch on, don’t just be persuaded or distracted by all those commercials. Be inspired, too!

13. Believe-it-or-not news items.
Bon Dylan famously scours newspapers for interesting stories to write songs about - he wrote the spoken-word-song, Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues after reading about a boating picnic which went tragically awry after hundreds of fake tickets were sold, and and the boat sank under the weight of too many extra passengers. I was inspired to write a poem after reading about a woman in drought-stricken New Mexico who burned a letter from her husband’s mistress in her garden, and started a grassfire which burned down her own home. What about the pictures of a newly-discovered South American tribe which turned out to be faked as a protest against logging? What about the fact that sometimes, so many people turn their kettles on at once that the National Grid goes down? Potential for poetry? I think so!

14. Your old English jotters.
Yes, really. Drag those dusty old school exercise books out of the loft and have a good read… check out some of the stories, poems and essays you wrote during your formative years. Perhaps they’ll spark a poem about your hellish school-playground experiences; perhaps the scrawled doodles in the margins will prompt a love-sonnet about a forgotten school crush. Write a homage to a dynamic English teacher or nick a line from one of your juvenile creations to kick-start a brand new poem. It may sound bizarre, but try it - you may even look back to find you were a poetic child-genius who wrote a load of great pieces you never even knew you had!

15. Urban myths.
A girl is babysitting when she receives a phonecall from a guy who threatens to kill her. Thinking it’s a prank, she calls the police to have the call traced. Moments later they call back to warn her to get out, the call came from inside the same house - but no one answers the phone…
How abou the fly that made its nest in a guy’s dreadlocks, resulting in hatched fly larvae eating into his scalp? Or the widow whose fox stole bit her and gave her rabies??
These weird and wonderful stories fly around in the cosmos, passing from person to person, waiting to get picked up by gossip magazines or turned into low-budget horror movies. Why not get there first and make one of them into a strange, funny or chilling poem?

Let me know your unusual inspirations! & keep an eye out for Part IV!

(Photo by Jessi)

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4 Responses to “20 unlikely places to find inspiration: Part III”

  1. Colin Will Says:

    I sometimes get lines coming into my head as I’m driving. It used to happen quite regularly driving to work along the same road every day. I got one of those wee dictaphone things and found it handy, but I don’t know if they’re legal while driving these days.

  2. Simon Freedman Says:

    I agree with Colin, although I tend to drive less safely the more inspired I get….

    Something I find almost infallibly effective is: get out of the house and go somewhere where you can meet people you’ve never met before. Odious people, lost soulmates, gorgeous people, ugly people, people whose spiritual home is the Jeremy Kyle show, homeless people looking for change, priests…they’re all potentially pregnant with a million possibilities, and in some strange way they will always remind you of yourself, if you look hard enough

  3. Claire Says:

    Colin — That’s a really interesting question, I’m guessing they probably are not legal given the whole issue over using your phone while driving/smoking while driving/eating while driving etc. However, that’s a good idea and a few people have mentioned the idea of using a dictaphone or the like to stop inspiration from slipping away! I also know the feeling of being inspired by things that are routine… oddly, the more you see the same place or thing, the more inspiring it seems to become!

    Simon — Yep… getting out there and looking at the good, the bad and the ugly of society is a tried and tested method, isn’t it? Certainly never failed Dickens!

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