Veteran writers have been known to come up with witty replies to the question: I get my ideas from the Idea Shop down the road, or I’m subscribed to the Daily Ideas mailing list, or There is an Ideas Box hidden deep in my basement where I withdraw to seek inspiration. There is definitely no informative or useful way to answer this question. However, ideas can be obtained by actively seeking and recognizing inspiration from your surroundings and from within yourself. Here are some methods through which I find interesting, relevant and original ideas:
Newspapers & Magazines: Staying updated on what’s going on in the world is a foolproof method for staying inspired. Political trends and important current events can provide the spark you need to build complex storylines. For example, I recently read an article about the hurdles of inter-religious marriage, and that sparked in me the idea for a story about a boy and girl from warring communities who fall in love with each other, and, in a tragic twist, ultimately end up dying for their love.
Novels, Short Stories & Poems: Reading other people’s works doesn’t only provide you with loads of inspiration for character, plot and setting, but it also helps you become a better writer and gauge what is fresh or relevant. For example, I’ve noticed that in most fiction, there is a goal or objective which the characters aspire to, and a series of obstacles to it that shape their journey. That sparked in me the idea of writing a story with a destination, like a lighthouse that represents something different for every character, as its focal point. As they say, all good writers were first good readers.
Daily Life: It is often recommended that writers carry around a journal with them and develop the habit of noting down interesting things in their environment. The everyday things happening around you can provide the seed for your next story. The music blaring from my neighbors’ party made me imagine a story where the main character throws big and lavish parties, secretly in the hopes that the girl he likes will wander into one.
Personal Experience: The most relatable and emotional fodder for writing usually comes from the ups and downs of your own life. And it doesn’t all have to be heartbreak and gloom. It can be as simple as the time my friend set me up on a terrible date, which inspired me to write a story about a girl who is a matchmaker and likes to set up all her friends, but is completely unaware of her own feelings.
Dreams: Which brings us to the final, undeniable ocean of inspiration for all writers. Don’t listen to any of those people who tell you that dreams aren’t helpful when it comes to writing fiction, or that they don’t translate well to reality. How else would I have come up with the idea for my story about a school where kids learn magic and fight an evil lord to save the world?
Written by Sanvitti S.
I once heard a Ted talk. It discussed a monster that lives inside all of us. A monster that we despise, and a monster that we simultaneously cannot live without. This monster is both the bane of our existence, and also the one thing that makes our existence even moderately successful. Am I just making something up? Conjuring something from the depths of my imagination? No. This monster is backed up by psychological and evolutionary research. This monster has many names, shapes, and iterations. But you may commonly know him as the Panic Monster.
While Panic can cause many behaviors, some healthy, and some very unhealthy, I’m choosing to discuss one of the benefits of the Panic monster. It causes the brusque end of procrastination.
Procrastination: The beautiful method by which we trick our highly logical minds into believing that time doesn’t actually move forward. Where we insist that later is better than now, and that everything will magically fall into place. You continue to live your idyllic life, unbothered by the weight of responsibilities you have carefully trained your mind to ignore.
But though your mind is a flexible thing, able to accept lies and truth and accuse truth as being lies, your responsibilities are not quite as transient. They exist whether you believe them too or not. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and responsibilities don’t change just because you have changed your mind’s perception of them.
But then, when the carefully built charade is close to falling apart, when the tottering house of cards is about to come crashing down, something changes. Remember that monster? Well, it has been asleep. Lulled into a gentle slumber by your mind’s deceptions, the panic monster suddenly awakes to find a structure crumbling all around it. In a rage, it snaps itself awake and advances on the crevices of your brain, shaking them down like an Italian mob boss to a negligent tenant. Unwilling to be sedated any longer, the Panic monster comes into its full glory, forcing itself onto your mind and coercing you to act.
And suddenly you too snap awake, acutely aware to the painful reality that work has to be done and you have no yet done it. And as the panic monster activates your drowsy hypothalamus, sending a wave of adrenaline throughout your bloodstream, you find yourself suddenly able to jump into action, and perform whatever Herculean task you have to complete in this minuscule period of time.
You frantically work, setting aside all distractions, (usually), and devoting yourself to the task at hand, the Panic monster a slave driver, pushing you to work harder, better, stronger.
And then in some miraculous way, (although I don’t know if you can call you miraculous if it happens on a weekly basis), you finish your work, and collapse relived into the nearest chair. The monster has succeeded.
You notice your phone buzz. You look and see that you have a reminder to accomplish the next impending item on your to-do list. But you’re tired. You just finished so much work. You deserve a Netflix binge. After all, there’s so much time left. You have 4 whole days. That’s 96 entire hours! And so you curl up and turn on your TV
And as the light of the TV flickers in your dark room,
Your Panic monster slides back to sleep.
Patiently waiting to be awoken again.
(If you haven’t noticed, I procrastinated on this blog post)
Written by Joshua A.
“Complacency (n): a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.”
We all made it this far. We are all at one of the best universities in the nation. Most of us have done a variety of volunteer work, intensive research, various internships and are knowledgeable in more than one field. However, while most of us are this accomplished, a majority of the students still share the same problem: Lack of motivation.
I went to a village in India one summer to help at a local school for underprivileged kids. One would think that finding good teachers or collecting sufficient funds would be their main challenge, but when I reached there, I realized that the problem was a lot bigger than that: it was the mindset of the village children. Most of them just didn’t want to study. Having lived in their small village for 14-15 years, they had grown comfortable with living in poverty. They had accepted the fact that this is what life comprises of and had no will to change the circumstances. On my second day volunteering, I decided to go around the village and talk to the kids and their families. With every stop, the problem was the same. The parents would enroll them in school, but the kids just wouldn’t show up. Begging on the streets or selling things by the roadside was just a lot easier. That’s when I realized how dangerous complacency can be.
We, as the human species have evolved and built this whole world of technology, skyscrapers, sciences, and art because of our need to grow. Our need to fulfill our curiosity. Had we been complacent, there would be no smartphones, no concept of electricity, no rapid transportations, no urban cities, no internet for me to share my thoughts with any number of people with just one click. We grow because we are impatient, there is always scope for improvement and we won’t stop until we reach the end. This is what makes us better than any other living species. While we can apply this to our kind in general, can we apply this to our daily lives? Can we proudly say that we give in our best every day, so we can reach our maximum potential and achieve what we are capable of?
Just like those kids, we all too are only our effort away from what we can achieve. I wrote this post for all those who have so much potential but are wasting it away on TV shows and Netflix. Look around you, there is so much to learn and so much to do. Push your limits because real growth begins only when you step outside of your comfort zone.
You have achieved a lot, and while it is important to take pride in your accomplishments, always remember you are capable of so much more. “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities” – Benjamin E Mays. Go out today with a renewed sense of purpose, and remember to never be lulled into complacency.
Written by Diksha G.
While I was thinking about what to post tonight, looking through old writing for inspiration, I stumbled upon some old poetry I wrote around this time last year. “a mi tierra y mi lengua” is an ode I wrote to my home—to the idea of missing it, after nine years away, and to the fear of losing grip of my first language. So, in honor of Latin Pub Night tonight, and the last few months during which I’ve spent a whole lot of time thinking about what it means to be an immigrant, here’s a little bit of my language and my home:
a mi tierra y mi lengua
motherland won’t tell you she loves you
without contact; without the feeling of her tongue
on your tongue or your tongue on the taste of her streets
in an outdated vernacular--
the arms of the avocado tree cradled you five years
in a row the way orchids lined her sunkissed valleys
who cradled earth and fog and holy land;
when tierra santa and Santo Domingo
rolled off mountainsides and tongues the same way
they could not come back to you.
she could not come back to you and she arrives
only temporarily – only it seems she hasn’t touched you
in nine years she hasn’t carried out the scent
of the local native marketplace:
now when she arrives, you forget
her tongue in the shapes of the avocado trees.
Written by Ana Paula Pinto