Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Grist vs. Gift
Since I always want to change things to suit myself, I thought about my attitude toward what inspires me. I consider things that fall into the grist/mill category as gifts from the universe. It may be magical thinking, but the universe always seems to be tossing things at me that make their way into my stories: art, Chinese cookie fortunes, colors, critters, music, odd names, phrases, scents, and textures, to mention a few.
Some of the strongest elements in the stories I write are inspired by very mundane things, too. Broken glass and an old pocket watch evolved into a dreadful superpower (Lucan's from Dark Need) and a time travel device (Disenchanted & Co.) respectively. Gifts for the mill can be very small, too, like a character name (the name Mordred from the Arthurian legend, turned inside out + e = Dredmore in my Toriana books) or something huge (apparently the Oregon Dunes helped Frank Herbert create the SF world of Dune).
Such inspirations often have intense, personal meanings for the writer as well. The photo of the pocket watch you see with this post is one I altered and made into a necklace, and is based on the time-travel device in my story, which was in turn inspired by a lovely old pocket watch I saw in an antique store on one of the best days in my life. For readers, it's a time-travel device. For me it's that and a reminder of something wonderful. Gifts remind us to be grateful and appreciative for whatever makes it into our stories, which is a bit healthier than seeing inspiration as something we can use.
So what was the last gift for the mill you received? Let us know in comments.