For me, inspiration doesn’t come in a flash. So far, it’s been the culmination of observation and incidents around me. For my first book, my debut novel – butterflies and barbed wires – the seed was planted in my mind when I was 14. I had come across an advert in a local newspaper of a little girl, probably 2 or 3 years old, who was found in an area where a communal riot had occurred. It was a call by the social welfare department for the parents of the lost girl. A month later, there was another advert by the same department, inviting couples who would be interested to adopt the girl as the government officials couldn’t trace her parents or any other family member and therefore presumed dead. I remember vividly, my fourteen year old mind pondering over the possibility of the girl being adopted by parents of a different religion and how that would affect the girl’s entire life. The incident was relegated to the recesses of my conscious memory.
As life went by and I grew up to be a journalist with leading magazines and newspapers, I had the precious opportunity of meeting different people and interviewing them for various sections of the publication. The experience opened the vistas of my mind and enriched my life immensely. After decades of writing for various publications, I realized it was time for me to move to the next level. Also, to be a published author was the dream of my life.
It’s interesting how our memory cells work. So on that day, when I picked up the pen to write the first line of my manuscript, my 38 year old brain went back to my memories as a 14 year old, of that little girl I had seen in the newspaper. Just imagine! I had never in my wildest dreams thought that I would access that particular memory. Yet, that was the first line I wrote. An imaginary description of the communal riot. Yes, I had had the opportunity of visiting curfew ridden areas in the aftermath of riots. I guess, that could have influenced my narrative as well.
And then as the book progressed, various interactions, several voices I had heard during my journalistic career, started tumbling out of my memory, one after another.
Having said that, I must confess – what I had planned to write and what I actually did, were two different things. It was almost as if the characters assumed a life of their own. Like they were dictating and I was merely transcribing them. I don’t know if this happens to all writers of fiction. But it does to me…
For all of us who are waiting for some kind of inspiration to strike us, let me tell you it really doesn’t. Unless of course, you’re J.K.Rowling! I would love to get into her mind and see where that imagination originates from. But then she is divinely gifted. For other factual, fictional writers like me – What we need is discipline to keep at it and commitment towards our art.