The ‘What inspires you?’ question seems to be the favourite for someone who is not a writer or a creative person, to ask. I cannot explain just how much this question irritates me in polite terms, but I will try.
Firstly, I never know how to answer this. Every single day, my inspirations are different. Sometimes the landscape or environment around me inspires. Other days it is something that someone has said. Then it’s music that I’m listening to. It could even be an advert on the TV that suddenly awakens my muse. Regardless of what day it is, it always changes.
Secondly, when people ask this question – they expect an immediate answer. Pfft – you must be joking, right? That is a loaded question. It’s like asking God what inspired him to create the world, or the universe. “Gee, let me think…” God says, with a raised bushy eyebrow, “Boredom?”
Yes, well. Like I said – it’s a loaded question. And here is what happened the last time someone asked me this question. Very recently it was asked by our new Finance Manager at my Evil Day Job. Naturally I didn’t know what to say – so I told him that he that inspired me every day. You know what? The dude actually got a kick out of that answer. Then he asked me the same question again. When I refused to answer, saying that it was a tough question, he asked me what it was like to write all that ‘Romancy Mills and Boon stuff’. Purely out of curiosity, I asked what gave the impression that I wrote in that genre. He said, “Because you’re female, and isn’t that most women authors write?”
Now, if I was a physically violent person – that would have been the moment that I would have smacked some reality into him. Instead – I was gobsmacked. There was no witty comeback lurking on my tongue. Instead, there was anger towards half the population of the earth. Oh yes. So what do you think inspired me that day? That’s right – anger, plus a multitude of other things that are far too sexist and inappropriate to write about publicly. I might destroy my esteemed reputation. But there you have it – a little piece of small minded chauvinism at its finest.
So, when I eventually simmered down, and told him that no, I write thrillers. I decided to leave the ‘Young Adult’ genre out of there, fearing that it may be a bit beyond his comprehension. He was shocked. Yes. Shocked. Just like I was shocked at his open chauvinism, he was shocked that a female might actually have the intelligence and the ability to write entertaining fiction. “Like James Patterson?” he asked.
“Yes,” I nodded. “Just like James Patterson.”
Perhaps I should have just told him that porn inspires me to write Mills and Boon books, and just left it at that.
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it is a difficult question, and I get sick of answering it, too 😉 Someone asked me how I got the idea for my story Birth Rights, and I was full of glee when I got to tell them that I thought it up after seeing a loose thread on a jersey. They looked at me like I was crazy, because of course, they had absolutely no idea how I got from ‘loose thread’ to ‘government sanctioned birth control’.
Hahahahaha, JC! A loose thread? Yes, well I think that all writers are full of loose threads every now and then. But I think you cut the cake with the ‘government sanctioned birth control’.
I loved that story, too. Hard subject – you pulled it off well. And now it’s getting published again!! I’m very excited for you.
ROFL not at the chauvanism but at the chauvanist… No wonder he was thrilled you found Him an inspiration, considering he thought you wrote bodice-rippers…. He was probably thinking you spend your days at the EDJ dreaming up love scenes with him!! Oh that did make me laugh. Thanks Chick- needed a laugh today.
I do understand your frustration with the question though but I now choose to take it as a compliment because obviously the person asking has no imagination to even string together a more original question so they are in awe of your managing to not just have the inspired imagination but be able to actually do something creative with it….Alternatively you could answer: “the many voices in my head inspire me” – that will stop the person from asking you and hopefully with word if mouth none of their friends will ask you eithet… Ergo, annoying question and idiotic people dealt with. As for the idiot chauvanist: tell him that you meant he was the guy who gets killed in the first chapter, the crime – chauvanism and idiocy. Lol
Next time I might just tell him that he inspired me to kill someone. Good idea!
Wonderful comeback. I think with him around you might even try a dip into horror – nothing like putting someone like that in the way of a zombie invasion or a Freddie Krueger or some kind of inventive instant karma! This bloke is giving me plenty of ideas. That’d amuse the YA crowd too – after all, they’re used to that kind of thing out of teachers or principals all the time.
Horror? Now there’s a thought. I haven’t tried horror yet, but I’m pretty sure I could possibly pull a ‘horrified rabbit’ out of my magical hat. My step sister would love that. She’s 14, and just adores all think dark and glorified.
Oddly, I don’t get asked this question a lot. Most of my friends are creative types, though, so they already know where inspiration can come from. However, it never ceases to amaze me how stupid people can still be when it comes to sexist remarks. (It is even worse when a woman responds that way!) The sad thing is that they don’t realize they are being sexist. It’s just how they think. To typecast people in any occupation or activity based on their gender is so grossly misinformed. I am saddened that these people are still living in the dark ages.
The good news is that you were able to get inspired by it. I hope you put the rest of that energy into your latest WIP!
Welcome to Parchment Place, esmaemairin 🙂
Yes, I couldn’t agree more. To have this sort of behaviour in 2011 is absolutely shocking. And yeah…they probably don’t realise. The lack of environment awareness truly pisses me off. Good grief. To think that most female authors write M & B!? I don’t have an issue with the romance genre. In fact, there are times when I sink into it for a lovely getaway, when the rest of the world seems miserable… But it’s a sexist assumption. It’s also a very sexist assumption that only males can write thrillers.
Perhaps God created the universe out of curiosity, rather than boredom, just to see what would be possible. You could tell enquiring minds in the future that you are inspired to write books for the same reason. Or you could always tell your finance manager, if he asks again, that you do in fact write romance novels, inspired by him, and that his heroism is proving to be a positive cash cow for your novels. And that he is the reason you keep coming to work, so that you can keep studying him close up for your forthcoming books.
On a serious note, our cultural habits have become calcified inside us over thousands of years of our belief in them (women as well as men). Technology and cognitive understanding is evolving at a much faster rate than human emotions and gender biases (on both sides). The best thing about being a writer is that you can use everything you’re learning about our species to write characters who evolve…and, by doing so, create a new groove in consciousness for life to learn from and begin to imitate art.