What inspires you?

On the eleventh day of Christmas…

Instead of counting the official twelve days of Christmas, I’m counting down the twelve days before Christmas to offer my gratitude for the people and things that make the writing life possible for me.

Today I’m thankful for inspiration.

You know what it’s like to sit in front of a blank screen?

What shall I write? How will I write this scene? What’s wrong with this character anyway?

A popular topic of conversation among writers is where and when does inspiration hit you?

In the shower?

In a traffic jam?

Walking the dog?

For me, it’s doing housework. I can’t believe I just wrote that. But there’s nothing like emptying the dishwasher to get me running to my laptop with the answer to a vexing plot problem. Somehow my subconscious goes into overdrive when I’m putting plates away. It happens folding laundry, running the vacuum and cooking dinner.

I guess it’s the reason I end up writing in the kitchen rather than my nicely appointed office where I can close the door, light a fragrant candle and enter the creative world.

Nah.

I want to be among the nagging tasks vying for my attention. And getting it.

Other writers inspire me all the time, too.

I just finished all eight Bridgerton novels. Read then one right after the other, mostly in order. Author Julia Quinn shows such wit in her writing. But what I loved most was the way she could draw out a scene for pages and pages. It allows readers to feel all the feels, from the swish of that silk dress to the touch of the earl’s hand to her pounding heart. She never cuts a scene short when it matters. But rather than drown in all those words, I wanted more and more.

I also am almost finished The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I consider The Grapes of Wrath to be one of those books that changed my life. I was barely a teenager when John Steinbeck showed me a world where the love of family and the love of the land couldn’t be diminished even by something as awful as the Dust Bowl migration.

Ms. Hannah has taken me back to those times with her new book and shown me characters just as powerful. This time, though, I’m brazen enough to call myself an author. So I’m reading the book with an appreciation of how she puts a scene together, describes Elsa’s emotions through her thoughts and actions, and brings us along, hungry, dirty, and desperate as the migrants who needed to escape the dusty plains before they died.

I study the books I read and find myself running for my laptop with renewed energy. I want to write like that.

So thank you inspiration—wherever you come from. Thank you, authors, for inspiring me. I ought to thank the dishwasher, too.

You never know when inspiration will strike.

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