October Theme: Inspiration by John Claude Bemis

How often do you hear people say, “All the good ideas out there are already taken”?

Nonsense! Inspiration for something original and exciting is all around us. It simply takes a certain way of viewing the world with a creative eye to capture it. Here’s my take on how to do it.

I think the most wildly imaginative ideas are when two things are put together in ways not seen before. When Reese’s put together chocolate and peanut butter, that was pure genius. How about when E.B. White saw that spider web and imagined writing in it? Or when Roald Dahl ate that peach and thought “What if a kid went on a journey in a dirigible fruit?” J.K. Rowling might not have been the first to put together magic and schools, but for many young readers that was their first encounter with that inventive and appealing idea.

So you’ve got all this stuff in your head. Background knowledge, as they say. That stuff you learned in school. All those experiences you’ve had. All those books you read and fascinating things you’ve encountered. That’s the “compost heap” of your imagination. Some of it breaks down forgotten. But much of it grows and synthesizes with other memories, ideas, and information in your brain into a rich field for growing great story ideas.

Then you encounter something new. Maybe you see some funny bumper sticker while driving in your car. Maybe you’re wandering around a flea market and spot something intriguing. Maybe you’re watching the news or reading a magazine or listening to your child talking to a friend. Your brain suddenly latches on some new information and makes a wild and crazy connection to something in the “compost heap” of your imagination. The light bulb goes off. An idea is born!

This is the heart of inspiration. Everyday encounters can cause a connection between something you already know with something new. Try to put things together in ways you hadn’t considered before.

When I was writing The Nine Pound Hammer, the first book in my Clockwork Dark series, I remember inventing this character name Peter Hobnob who was chained to a tree in the forest. I didn’t know how he was going to escape. I knew I wanted him to have a magical touch, something that would introduce my protagonist Ray to a world that was magical and wondrous. Then, while walking around my yard in mid-summer, I kicked a dandelion. What if Hobnob had a dandelion hat that when placed on his head allowed him to turn into a million little dandelion petals that float away on the breeze?

So look around you. There’s inspiration everywhere. Simply try to make a connection between something new and unexpected you encounter and something already percolating in your imagination. I guarantee something creative and wildly original will emerge.


  1. Great thoughts! There's something strangely appealing about seeing your imagination as a compost heap of ideas, just waiting to be rummaged through and connected to new things.


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