Inspiration and Imagination


I just bought Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer (a beautiful and fun book on craft) and wanted to share a couple of gems from the early pages on Inspiration and the Creative Life. Mainly: Inspiration is a continuing process, and creative play strengthens the imagination and, thus, storytelling.

“‘Inspiration’ is often inadequately described as the initial spark of sparks that lead to a story. In fact, the word describes a continuing process that occurs throughout the development of a particular piece of fiction–an ongoing series of revelations put together by your subconscious and conscious minds working in tandem. These revelations often take the form of connections between elements of the story. Examples include a crucial shift in the story because of a change in the relationship between two characters, a revelation about the setting, or even just the realization that one scene isn’t needed but another must be written. The fact that the woman with a gun at the story’s beginning is actually a friend of your penguin protagonist, and they’re not strangers to this place but coming home.”


“When unburdened by the need to put words on a page, the imagination often appears as a form of love and sharing: playful, generous, and transformative. The best fiction is often driven by this invisible engine, which hums and purrs and sighs. It’s this flicker, or flutter, at the heart of good stories that animates them, and this movement–ever different, ever unpredictable–that makes each story unique. The more we allow it into our lives, the better, and the less we treat it just as a pack of lies, the more we’re enriched. In a very real sense, too, the history of the world could be seen as an ongoing battle between good and bad imaginations–and the existence we have created on Earth is both sad and uplifting as a result. Your imagination and your stories exist within a wider context, and sometimes you’ll find you need to break free of other people’s imaginations to allow your own uniqueness to shine through.”


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