By Guest Author
Posted October 27, 2012
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by EJ Spurrell
As writers, I’m sure we’ve all seen the ups and downs of the creative process. We receive inspiration oftentimes from the strangest of places. From books we’ve read, movies we’ve watches, series we’ve followed and music we get lost in, we’re almost constantly and consistently bombarded with inspiration.
But it’s not as easy as all that. The inspiration has to catch us. It has to take hold, and guide us through the process to the point where it can be seen through. Many of us with completed works remember the exact moment inspiration struck us. Before I wrote Children of the Halo, I had been struggling with exactly how I was going to approach the subject of an entire modern-day town being suddenly and mysteriously transported to an alternate dimension. A place where the laws of magic applied much more than the laws of physics. How would the characters, all eight thousand of them, react to such a strange event? How would the culture shock affect them?
So I did what any author would do. I asked people. I asked my friends. I asked business owners. I asked police, local politicians, engineers, fishermen, tradesmen and truck drivers. The floodgates opened, and inspiration flowed. I began to approach a completely speculative subject from a level of realism that wouldn’t have been available to me before.
Inspiration came at me from every direction. The characters were formed from my own experiences and the personality traits of myself and my closest friends. Music helped inspire moods. Social situations involving foreigners from the third world allowed me a glimpse into how the people of the Pactlands in Children of the Halo might react when faced with modern technology.
In short, it took me ninety days to finish the first draft of Children of the Halo. Less than a year later, I started releasing it online, and set to write the sequel.
Needless to say, that didn’t come so easily. I found that the same inspiration I had fallen back on for the first book were now traps. Dark, black holes that I had already tapped and could no longer count on. I knew where the book was going to go, but I didn’t know how I was going to get there.
And so back into research I went. I spoke to more people who originated from the third world who had made it to Canada in one piece and listened to their stories. Some of them were mundane. Others unbelievable. I heard stories from the darkest recesses of the human psyche, heard of people capable of things that any so-called civilized person would balk at. But this was their reality.
I spoke to more politicians. I spoke to more engineers, conspiracy theorists, tenured professors, athletes, hippies, famous actresses and musicians, positing them with the same what-if questions, and they gave me answers.
But I’d lost the spark that allowed me to write a quarter of a million words in ninety days. I felt that my inspiration had been replaced by lethargy. I started writing without purpose, without goal, and wrote a draft for Children of the Halo’s sequel over the course of a few months and ended up with a story that was out of place with the original intent with which I had started.
I was unimpressed.
So, tabula rasa. I wiped the slate clean and didn’t look at it again for two years. I believed the inspiration had been lost.
It wasn’t until this year that I discovered why I had lost the will to write. It wasn’t because of a lack of inspiration — I’d always had that. By going out with friends and being social, I was inspired in character interaction. By listening to slam poetry and great music, I was inspired to convey emotion through my writing. By engaging my spirituality, I was able to think much more deeply about who my characters were. By watching movies I was turned on to the tropes that could very well apply to the story. The inspiration from these and other sources were more than what I needed to complete the next book.
But I was still lacking something. My will to write had been misplaced.
I had lost track of why I chose to write after my first book. And that is something that we, as writers, must never lose track of.
When I originally wrote Children of the Halo, it was purely because I wanted an avenue with which to invite others to play in my imagination. After monetizing my book, it had become about exposure. About being seen and gaining attention. It was no longer about what I could do for readers, but about what readers could do for me.
And it took a heated argument with a New-York Times bestselling fantasy author (whose identity may be discovered by one well-versed in the art of Google-Fu) to make me realize that if you lose track of why you write, inspiration matters very little.
And so, I invite all of you, published, unpublished or aspiring writers to always keep in mind why you write. Write it down and post it up where you’ll see it every day. Make a sticker and put it on your laptop, above your computer monitor or on the inside cover of your notebook. Motivation trumps inspiration every time.
Now, to this very day, there is a phrase posted on the wall in my writing room. It contains five very simple words, and serves as a constant reminder to who I am as a writer.
It says, “I write for the reader.”
Emmerson James Spurrell was born at the very tender age of zero. Despite his general lack of uniqueness when stacked up against the rest of the human race, he nonetheless strove to carve out his own path through life, resulting in events equally wondrous and disastrous. Then he started writing.
Thus far, he’s released Engines of Creation: Children of the Halo, the first installment of a fantasy epic mixing modern machinery and magic, and Persephone: Twenty Past Midnight, a post-apocalyptic jaunt through what used to be Vancouver, BC. As of October, 2012, he is also releasing the much-anticipated sequel to Children of the Halo, entitled The Liar’s Law as a web-serial. All three may be read through his website at ejspurrell.com, and a special print version of Children of the Halo will soon be available for purchase.
He currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia where he works his butt off for a living and spends copious amounts of time with hippies in Fernwood.
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